SOUTHBURY — The American Rescue Plan Act Task Force began discussing how to spend the $5.79 million the town will receive from the federal American Rescue Plan Act at its first meeting on Tuesday, September 7.

The Board of Selectmen formed the ARPA task force at a special meeting on Wednesday, July 28.

The task force is made up of First Selectman Jeff Manville, Selectman Justin Bette, Selectman Jason Buchsbaum, Assistant to the First Selectman Claire Morris, Finance Director Dan Colton and Board of Finance member Richard Hill.

The task force is an advisory committee that will create recommendations on how to spend the $5.79 million ARPA funding.

Mr. Buchsbaum said the town might have some misconceptions about the task force, and noted the task force is currently in the information-gathering phase.

“Nobody’s making decisions yet; nobody’s spending money yet,” he said.

He continued that the task force is an advisory task force. The spending recommendations would go to other boards and commissions and, eventually, to the town to decide.

He also encouraged more residents to fill out the survey the task force created and reach out to the task force with ideas for how to spend the money, noting only about 100 residents had responded to the survey before the task force’s meeting.

“We got a lot of comments,” Mr. Buchsbaum said. “But still, there are 20,000 residents.”

The task force also noted the state had yet to finalize the ARPA spending guidelines.

“They haven’t finalized fully how we can spend the funds,” Mr. Colton said, noting that there were preliminary guidelines the town could use to springboard discussion.

The funds can be used to help with Covid recovery and resiliency, cover revenue losses due to Covid and for various projects for the town.

Mr. Colton noted that if the funds were to be used for projects, those projects must benefit the future of the town and cannot be used to pay down interest or pay pensions.

The funds cannot be used to lower the mill rate or as a direct refund to taxpayers.

“The state was very specific with its guidelines. The money cannot be used to offset taxes, to lower the mill rate,” Mr. Colton said, noting a few residents had requested the funds be used for just that.

The funds must be obligated by December 31, 2024.

Some ideas the task force discussed included a building a community center, investments in the transfer station, fixing Ballantine Pool, investment in the town beach, grants to local nonprofits, investment in broadband infrastructure and others.

Mr. Buchsbaum said most of the public comments were recreation-oriented, which he said, the town and the task force should take seriously.

The task force said it would reach out to various organizations and stakeholders to hear from them how ARPA funding could potentially benefit them. It also asked residents to send additional ideas in to the task force.

Those seeking additional information on the funds or to fill out the task force’s survey may visit www.southbury-ct.org/arpa.

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