Ridgefield is spending over $340,000 on COVID-19 test kits

Photo of Alyssa Seidman

RIDGEFIELD — Residents voted this week to allocate $344,480 from the town’s American Rescue Plan fund to cover the recent purchase of more than 17,000 rapid COVID test kits.

Last month, with the Board of Selectmen’s approval, the town purchased a cache of kits from Florida to distribute to residents through various outlets, including a mass distribution at Scotts Ridge Middle School.

The Board of Finance voted to allocate the money from the town’s ARPA fund, which was brought to residents for approval at a town meeting this week.

During the meeting, resident Russ Porter applauded both boards for expediting the purchase in a timely manner, noting that tests were “badly needed” to address the spike in COVID cases earlier this year as a result of the omicron variant.

“I’m rising to support this whole-heartedly,” Porter said. “I think this is part of the intended use of the American Rescue Plan funds, (and) I would encourage and ask all of my friends and neighbors to support the allocation … as well.”

Ridgefield initially received 1,845 tests from the state in early January, but officials expected to receive more than 3,000. Some of the tests were distributed to first responders, town officials and the local schools, and the rest were given to residents via a distribution at Yanity Gym.

More than 4,000 of the Florida test kits were distributed through the SRMS site, and another 7,000 were distributed through the local clergy association, Meals on Wheels, the Casagmo Condominium Association and the Ridgefield Housing Authority.

The Office of Emergency Management also conducted a handful of smaller distributions to disperse kits to some of the neighborhood associations it partners with.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi told Hearst Connecticut Media that there are about 800 test kits from Florida left to be distributed.

The town has largely used its ARPA funds toward COVID related expenses, lost revenue and an infrastructure project, an analysis found.

The analysis, drawn up by finance director Kevin Redmond, shows how much of the federal stimulus was initially delivered, how much has been allocated since, and what the remaining balance will be assuming the second tranche is received.

Redmond expects the town to receive the second tranche before the end of this fiscal year, in either April, May or June. The town has about $3 million left to spend, he said.

An informal working group is determining how to use the remaining funds based on guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department. As with normal budgetary proceedings, the expenditures would have to be approved via public hearings, town meetings or a natural referendum.

The group comprises representatives from Ridgefield’s Tri-Board, including: Marconi and Selectman Bob Hebert; Kenneth Sjoberg and Tina Malhotra from the Board of Education; and Mike Rettger and Greg Kabasakalian from the Board of Finance. Economic & Community Development Commissioner Geoffery Morris was invited to join as a seventh member.

The group is expected to hold a second meeting in the coming weeks to decide what other requests should be pursued.

Group members would bring the recommendations back to their respective boards, who would then vote to bring a formal capital request to the Board of Selectmen, who would then establish a public hearing, town meeting or referendum.

In an earlier interview, Marconi said most of the town’s nonprofit organizations have already asked for support via the ARPA funding, with some requests totaling six figures. Other areas of interest include education, infrastructure and technology.