The Town of Woodbridge will receive a total of $2.5 million from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), to be paid in two installments, according to Finance Director Anthony Genovese. Half of that amount – close to $1.3 million – was received last June; the other half will be paid out in June 2022.
The money was passed by Congress in March to help the nation recover from the Covid pandemic and the economic stressors it has caused. The funds will need to be earmarked by December 2024, and spent by December 2026, Genovese said.
Selectmen, at their October 13 meeting, considered several potential projects that would help the town move into the new normal. One of the major projects they are considering is a new HVAC system for the Center Building. The newer system would bring fresh air into the building and improve efficiency, Genovese said. As it stands, the large gymnasium cannot be used for town functions, because there is no fresh air flow.
Genovese cautioned however, that although ARPA funds will pay for construction projects, they may not pay for the design of them. He also said other improvements may have to be done to accommodate the new heating system, improvements which might not be covered by ARPA funds. For example, they might have to replace the roof on the Center Building before placing new air handlers.
Other projects under consideration include a gazebo in the so-called Grove, the open space bordered by the library, the old firehouse and the library parking lot. The Grove has been used for myriad outdoor programming since the pandemic. A gazebo would create additional outdoor programming space, which could be used by the library as well as the Center and the Recreation Department. A heating unit in the proposed gazebo may extend the season for spring and fall programs.
Assistant Administrative Officer Betsy Yagla said an outdoor space may also be helpful for community organizations that normally use rooms in the Center Building, rooms that are currently not accessible to them. They meet outdoors, but when the weather is bad, the program gets canceled, she said.
Selectman David Vogel suggested looking into getting a new canvass for the party tent that was left over from the Country Club of Woodbridge, and which the Recreation Department was hoping to use for its programs. The tarp was found to be damaged, but the frame seems to be in good shape, he said. Genovese said he would look into it.
If the Center Building HVAC system is funded, it may free up some funds for the Senior Center improvements – which are in this year’s Capital plan. To bring the HVAC project forward will require more research and planning. “If [the Center Building] continues to be a high priority item we need to do more legwork,” Genovese told the selectmen.
Other projects under consideration include assistance to the business district, and upgrades to playgrounds and parks. Genovese said the town also has been approached by a number of agencies such as the Quinnipiack Valley Health District and the water company to consider emergency relief support.
Bigger projects and capital items will have to go through the regular budget approval process, Genovese said. That involves the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance and ultimately, a town vote.
The American Rescue Plan Act was passed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including its public health and economic impacts. According to the US Treasury’s website, it was intended to provide:
*direct economic impact payments to individuals;
*expanded child tax credit;
*emergency funding to state and local governments to remedy the mismatch between rising costs and falling revenues;
*In addition to addressing the revenue losses, the program seeks to help local governments recover the costs incurred due to the public health emergency and provide support for a recovery – including assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits; aid to impacted industries; and support for essential workers. It will also provide resources for state and local governments to invest in infrastructure, including water and sewer improvements and broadband services.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent