July 15, 2024
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By Christian Metzger

During a recent meeting, the City Council once again delayed allocating almost $200,000 of American Rescue Plan funding to the YMCA in order to repair roofs.

The members voted to defer action until the February first meeting of the American Rescue Plan Steering Committee, in order to wait for a report by Finance Director Michael Lupkas on how much they had remaining to spend with construction costs constantly rising.

This $198,000 comes on top of the $200,000 approved by the Y for this project. The Y was surprised to learn that the cost of the project would be much higher than initially estimated. Project bids were twice as high.

The council initially delayed approval of the funds in September because it wanted to give the American Rescue Plan Steering Committee time to consider other applications. They did not want to reject other applicants due to the fact that the Y roof had been replaced. Since September, the committee has approved four projects, which is about half the applications submitted. This leaves $1.5 million left in the ARPA reserve of the town.

Mayor Kevin Scarpati tried to promote the project by saying that during the Monday night meeting, the city should fund the project before winter conditions worsen.

The reduction to this amount of approximately close to $200 000 still leaves enough funds for the outstanding projects including applications which have yet be heard. “I can confirm this with my conversations, especially with YMCA staff who call me frantic based on the current storm, not to mention last Monday when it rained inches,” Scarpati stated.

They need a new roof because the weather hasn’t improved. We owe them a favor by giving them reassurance or direction that they should or can start the project.

Scarpati said that Lupkas had recommended an additional $235,000 to the project, as he believed there would be some contingency expenses. However, Y officials are so desperate for money, they’d find other funding options if they went over their initial budget.

Postponement would be voted on unanimously by the council.

Yvette C. Cortez, a member of the Democratic Council said: “I think that we will need to have at least two meetings in order to make a decision.” We had originally set a Sept. 23, 2013 deadline for when all the funds would be allocated. Due to the resignation of Tim Coon, the process was delayed for months. By next month we will have heard all the applicants and made a decision on them all.

I think that by February’s first meeting, we should have the complete information requested by the Council.

Sonya Jelks, the Majority Leader of the House, also noted that delays had a negative impact on several other applicants who were having problems with their roofing. She wanted all open applications that were left before the committee to be closed by the end of January.

Roof on the YMCA Building at 110 West Main St. was not renovated since 1996. That’s 27 years. Roof leakage has been a problem during recent storms. The YMCA says it is not a danger to guests but they had to relocate programs to another room during severe weather.

John Benigni, CEO of the YMCA, said: “I can assure you that it isn’t getting better.” The longer we delay, the greater the risk of needing to repair the roof and the potential damage that could be done. We have done a good job so far, and will do our best to continue doing that. “Our goal is to repair this roof with minimal delays, and to provide services to all of our members.”

Benigni was shocked that an architect was required to design the roof, as part of ARPA. He did not think it necessary at the time. He said that the process caused costs to increase because the engineers had to be paid for their work and the initial estimate only included the costs of re-roofing.

He thanked Council, however, for getting the Y its initial funding.

It needs repair. Benigni: “It needs to be repaired. It’s a borrowed time. “Let’s just leave it there.”

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