West Haven Council approves sending projects to tender; some questions


WEST HAVEN — City Council has voted to put five pandemic recovery projects up for tender as the city continues to plan how it will spend its $29 million allocation of U.S. federal bailout funding.

However, the chairman of the volunteer committee responsible for overseeing the details of the procurement process, to ensure the city gets the highest quality work at the lowest cost, expressed concern that bureaucracy could jeopardize some of the city’s favorite projects.

A condition of ARPA funding is that any money not committed to a project by the end of 2024 must be returned to the federal government. Although the city has a year and a half until then, ARPA committee chairman Ken Carney warned that in construction, issues such as permitting and obtaining supplies can take months. One of the projects approved by the city council for tender is a recycling and reuse center, with an expected budget of $1 million.

“The recycling center takes a year to get a permit from the (Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection). That may already be off the mark,” Carney warned ahead of the council vote.

Because the city is overseen by the state’s Municipal Accountability Review Board, members of that board must also approve expenditures over $50,000. The full MARB usually meets West Haven once a month.

Councilman Ron Quagliani, D-At Large, acting chair of Monday’s meeting, said council wouldn’t want to “unduly delay projects,” but city council members need to do their due diligence. Although the timing of board meetings has already been noted, he said members would be willing to call special meetings if there were urgent approvals. Quagliani’s comment was met with nods from several of the other 10 members present at the meeting.

“I recognize that you have a lot to do and that you have professionals in the squad,” Quagliani said. “But we, as a legislative body, have to make sure we’re comfortable.”

Carney argued that it would be more effective to have a council liaison report to the full board on the activities of the ARPA committee rather than requiring the committee to come before the city council to engage contractors. He said the committee does not recommend contractors because of the procurement ordinance which requires the lowest bidder meeting all stated conditions to be awarded the contract.

He said a project approved at a previous council meeting to redo city pavements in the area of ​​schools and other youth recreation areas has been slightly delayed due to the requirement that ‘it receives City Council approval – a concern when the cost of materials rises. .

Finance committee chair Bridgette Hoskie, D-1, said she asked for a list of sidewalks that had made a bid, but was denied.

“I find it disrespectful, totally disrespectful,” she said. “It would have been approved two weeks ago if we had the list.”

Hoskie said residents are loudly asking the city council to keep a close eye on ARPA’s funding, and that she should be responsible for spending. A previous $1.15 million allocation from the federal government was at the center of a citywide scandal last year, when former Democratic state Rep. Michael DiMassa was arrested for allegedly transferred more than $1 million in cash from the city to a front company with invoices claiming a business under his control provided pandemic-related business. An audit report commissioned by a State Department concluded that $900,000 of the $1.15 million had been mis-spent or improperly documented.

Councilman Gary Donovan, D-At Large, agreed with Hoskie that “business as usual has come to a standstill.”

“We have everything OK. This is what the locals also want,” he said.

Chief Financial Officer Scott Jackson said the city and the ARPA committee “have a clear understanding of the will of the board” and that everyone will act within the limits set by the board, even if it takes longer.

Carney said his concern is that the board understands the expectations placed on the ARPA committee.

“Here’s what I don’t want to happen: I don’t want to be blamed at the end of December 24 if all the money hasn’t been spent,” he said.

Projects approved by the council to be auctioned include an investment in pocket parks; renovation of the center for the elderly; and a new roof for the Child Development Center. A proposal to replace the windows in City Hall was debated.

“I think we can use that money elsewhere,” Donovan said.

Councilman Steven Johnstone, R-10, said he thinks it “sends the wrong message” for the city to invest in improvements to City Hall rather than providing direct support to residents. He also likened the building to an old car – after many years of use, the cost of replacing old and broken parts becomes more expensive than the car itself is worth, he said.

Councilman Robert Bruneau, D-9, disagreed.

“Our energy costs are through the roof and they say there are rats going through the building,” he said, so he thinks replacing the windows would benefit the whole city.

Following Hoskie’s comments on the uncertainty about the proposal and the desire to learn more, Councilor Mitchell Gallignano, D-4, offered to add an energy study to the council’s charge for the ARPA committee to offers. The council approved the project with Gallignano’s amendment for the tenders.

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