Council Receives Substantial New Funding Request, Community Center Left in Limbo
July 13th 2022
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
July 13th 2022
RICHMOND – Town Council members continued, at the July 12 meeting, to discuss allocations of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which are expected to be about $2.3 million.
In addition to the town’s capital and operating needs, the council has also had to consider funding requests from many local and regional non - profit groups.
By the end of the meeting, the council had postponed decisions on some of the requests and voted to approve funds for several projects, leaving $462,454.
The council also voted, with council President Nell Carpenter opposed, to spend up to $34,000 to hire the specialized consulting firm, iParametrics LLC, to administer the grants receiving the town’s federal ARPA funding.
Council Vice President James Palmisciano asked Finance Director Laura Kenyon whether she believed the consultant’s services would be worth the expense.
“iParametrics knows what has to be done, if you do give a donation to an agency,” she said. “I’m not qualified. There isn’t anyone in the town that is actually qualified to know what those restrictions are. iParametrics is in the business of doing so.”
Carpenter said she would not support hiring the consulting firm.
“It’s like going to the gym and watching the trainer work with somebody else,” she said.
Finance Board nixes community center proposal
After meeting twice to discuss the distribution of ARPA funds, the Finance Board submitted a memo to the council which includes a list of recommended allocations as well as requests still awaiting decisions.
The memo from the board, which cautions the council not to create new positions or departments using ARPA funds, reads in part,
“We do not suggest funding the Community Center Director nor the $1 million set aside for the community center in FY 23.”
The council addressed the hiring of the community wellness advocate, which the board had recommended be limited to a part time annual salary of $40,000. Councilors ended up passing a motion allocating $75,000 to the position over three years, contingent on continued funding.
The community and senior center, a perennial goal for the town, was not funded.
In a unanimous vote, council members approved $83,330 for equipment for the Maddie Potts Foundation’s field house project, which is nearing completion. A request was made by councilor Lauren Cacciola to add $30,000 to the $20,000 originally allocated to equipment for the Beaver River playground, for a total of $50,000.
Also receiving grants were five emergency services agencies in Richmond, Hope Valley and Ashaway.
The Finance Board had recommended that the town defer a decision on a $196,077 funding request from Wood River Health Services, however, Carpenter and Cacciola voted in favor of allocating the funds. They were out-voted by the three other councilors, including Richard Nassaney, who warned that the town might require the money in the future and also noted that Wood River was not in desperate financial need.
“I’m just trying to look long term, not just ‘we need it right now,’” he said. “They have funding. They have money. They have a business. They are continuing to grow. This is icing on the cake.”
The council agreed to allocate $150,000 to Wood River Health Services over three years, a commitment that can be reconsidered, if it becomes necessary.
RICAN Requests $250,000
The council was presented with a substantial new funding request, supported by Carpenter but not included in the original list of applicants.
RICAN, the Rhode Island Center Assisting those in Need, is requesting $250,000. Executive Director Jonathan Riley said the money would be used to purchase a new refrigerator for the bulk storage of donated food, a new roof equipped with solar panels, and two office cubicles to enhance the privacy of the non-profit group’s clients.
Councilors said they wanted to consult with the Finance Board before making a decision, and Carpenter urged them to do so without delay.
“This needs to be addressed soon,” she said.
The Finance Board was asked to meet at “their earliest convenience” to consider the request.
Town Spending Priorities
As the council heard and discussed funding requests from outside organizations, there also are pressing - and costly – municipal projects that will require sizeable allocations.
The emergency communications tower on Shannock Hill Road was heavily damaged by fire on July 6, and three juveniles are facing arson charges.
Fire Chief Scott Barber told the council that the town would need a new emergency communications tower, with additional security, all of which will cost about $500,000.
“In light of this fire, now we have to look at securing the site,” he said.
The vote to approve the $500,000 was unanimous.
The other major looming expense is the chlorination of the town’s water supply, a state-mandated measure expected to cost $300,000.
The town also intends to extend the water line to the Town Hall and to a property across the road, a project that will cost $100,000.
Laura Kenyon said she would provide more information at the August meeting.
With only $462,454 of the $2.3 million in ARPA funds remaining to be allocated, RICAN Executive Director Jonathan Riley warned the council, during the Public Forum, to carefully consider the remaining requests.
“It’s intended for a reason,” Riley said. “It is rescue from the pandemic and those types of things, and I just want to make sure that people appreciate the fact that it’s not just a piggy bank to pay for expenses so you don’t have to use your own money. No offense intended.”