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    Tuesday, April 23, 2024

    Norwich allocates more ARPA grant money, keeps $781,000 in reserve

    Norwich ― The City Council Monday approved recommended allocations for much of the city’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act grant money, keeping more than $781,000 in reserve pending further review of grant requests.

    The council Monday unanimously approved $1.7 million in ARPA allocations, including placing $1 million toward the 2023-24 city budget as “revenue replacement” to help balance the budget. Norwich received $28.8 million over two years in the federal COVID-19 recovery grant.

    City Manager John Salomone removed funding for a proposed firetruck for the central city paid fire department, reclaimed $400,000 in unused code correction money from the Norwich Community Development Corp. and placed the final $781,719 into a contingency account.

    Council President Pro Tempore Joseph DeLucia said the city has received additional requests for the final ARPA grant money, and those will be reviewed by Salomone for further recommendations.

    The funding package includes $400,000 to complete an environmental cleanup of the former YMCA property on Main Street to prepare the property for redevelopment as the new headquarters of Mattern Construction. Another $150,000 will purchase new firearms for the Norwich Police Department, and the council approved $80,000 to help fund bathroom and shower upgrades at the St. Vincent de Paul Place soup kitchen and $50,000 for upgrades at the Katie Blair House transitional housing for women.

    Not discussed Monday but also pending is a review of the second $500,000 grant the City Council approved in January for the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition. Prior to Monday’s meeting, Salomone said he will discuss the grant with coalition leaders in the wake of last week’s announcement that Executive Director Wendy Bury will depart to become director of the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts.

    Salomone said $250,000 of the total could be shifted to NCDC, as it was earmarked to help fund parklets for outdoor dining for local restaurants and art to accompany economic development projects.

    Bury said Wednesday she and coalition leaders will meet with Norwich officials and try to instill continuing confidence in the coalition going forward. Bury said the coalition’s initial proposal included a partnership with NCDC for half the total $500,000 grant to give an arts component to economic development.

    “If they’re going to do landscaping, let’s make it pretty,” Bury said. “If they’re going to do parklets, let’s have some artistic elements.”

    Another $100,000 was earmarked for a public art program, including establishing a policy and a Public Art Committee to review projects and to put our requests for proposals for art in certain spots.

    From the latest grant, the coalition placed $50,000 in a Norwich public art fund for maintenance, repairs or removal of the city’s public art collection, and allocated the final $50,000 for competitive small grants for community arts projects, programs and events.

    The coalition dedicated $100,000, of its first round $500,000 Norwich ARPA grant allocation, including $25,000 for public art in the new roundabout at Franklin and Main streets. A “call for concepts” from artists will be advertised in March, and an ad hoc review committee of city and coalition leaders will review the proposals. Bury envisions similar work by a permanent Public Art Committee with the second-round grant.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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