Some Ridgefield officials scratch heads over proposed truck purchases

Photo of Alyssa Seidman
Earlier this month, the Board of Selectmen sought to use some of the town’s American Rescue Plan dollars to bring improvements to the Venus Building, replace a HVAC system at Barlow Mountain Elementary School and purchase vehicles for the highway and fire departments.

Earlier this month, the Board of Selectmen sought to use some of the town’s American Rescue Plan dollars to bring improvements to the Venus Building, replace a HVAC system at Barlow Mountain Elementary School and purchase vehicles for the highway and fire departments.

Alyssa Seidman / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

RIDGEFIELD — A request to use American Rescue Plan monies to fulfill a handful of capital projects on the books caused Board of Finance members to collectively scratch their heads, Chairman Dave Ulmer said.

Earlier this month, the Board of Selectmen sought to use some of the town’s ARPA dollars to bring improvements to the Venus Building, replace a HVAC system at Barlow Mountain Elementary School and purchase vehicles for the highway and fire departments.

Together the items totaled roughly $1.7 million. They were taken out of the capital budget to be considered separate from the annual budget.

The request was sent to the Board of Finance for consideration, but members took issue with two items in the bundle: a $291,000 quick-attack truck for the Ridgefield Fire Department and a more than $234,000 Mack truck for the Highway Department.

Ulmer said the trucks should be considered by voters at referendum along with other capital requests. That budget currently totals a little more than $6 million; transferring the trucks back would bring it up to just under $6.5 million.

“We collectively scratched our heads as to why the trucks were (included) relative to the ARPA funding,” Ulmer added. “The HVAC (has) more rationale … obviously (since) it cleans the air and improves things like that.”

He continued, “There already are a lot of requests for ARPA funding, far more than what’s available.”

The town has largely used its ARPA monies toward COVID-19 related expenses, lost revenue and an infrastructure project, according to a recent analysis. With all uses considered, it has about $3 million left to spend.

Earlier this month, representatives from the Ridgefield Arts Council and Economic & Community Development Commission came before the Board of Selectmen seeking 10 percent of the federal stimulus total — or $740,000 — to be distributed among 24 arts and culture nonprofits to help cover COVID-related losses and expenses.

Since the Board of Finance cannot increase the amount of the capital budget in accordance with the town charter, the selectmen would have to vote to transfer the total cost of the trucks — almost $530,000 — back to the capital fund.

“They can agree not to put it in ARPA but we can go ahead with a town meeting,” Marconi said at Wednesday’s meeting. “Their negative recommendation doesn’t mean we cannot go forward to approve it. … It’s up to the board if they agree.”

While Selectman Sean Connelly believes the Board of Finance raises a fair question, “If these purchases go back into capital, Ridgefield residents will end up paying more ... through the bonding costs,” he said.

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