The Town of Cheshire has spent, or has committed to spend, nearly $5.7 million in ARPA funding after receiving $8.56 million from the state.
Since the 2021 fiscal year, the Town Council and Town officials have used funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to offset unexpected budgetary losses due to COVID-19, high claims from Cheshire School District employees, among other expenses, according to Town Manager Sean Kimball.
“It’s been enormously helpful through some very uncertain early months of the pandemic, responding to some of the revenue loss we experienced,” Kimball said. “It’s been very, very helpful.”
To date, the Town designated $1.4 million as general revenue due to financial losses from the Cheshire Community Pool and a loss of tax revenue due to the pandemic; $1.5 million to cover costs in the District’s medical benefits reserve fund; $325,000 to fund bulky waste pickup in the fall of 2021; and $58,000 to implement teen mental health first aid training for the District.
Kimball added that, while $325,000 was appropriated toward bulky waste, not all of the ARPA funding was used.
“The collection and tonnage was a lot lower so that the total cost ended up being $240,000,” Kimball explained. “Therefore, we still have $85,000 available.”
With the funding for mental health first aid training established, 16 District staff members who were trained in youth mental health first aid will also be enrolled in the teen program, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeff Solan.
Training will take place over three days sometime this month.
“That program provides these adults the capacity to coach Cheshire High School sophomores in recognizing signs of mental health distress in themselves, in others, and how to connect with supportive adults,” Solan explained.
The program for sophomores will be delivered in six 45-minute sessions throughout the fall, Solan continued. He credited the collaborative relationship the District has with the Cheshire Human Services Department and Human Services Director Michelle Piccerillo, who worked to bring teen mental health first aid to CHS.
“We are excited to be one of the first high schools in America to take this step, as it supports our goal of ensuring our graduates are strong not only as complex thinkers, but also possess strong social- emotional skills,” Solan said.
Looking ahead, the Council appropriated $2 million of ARPA funding toward the Bartlem Park South project, reducing the burden on taxpayers from $7.9 million to $5.9 million. The project, according to Kimball, has been “going very well,” and has been handled by a team of Town staff and some Council members. The group meets regularly to make design decisions in consultation with the Town’s consultant, engineering firm Weston & Sampson.
According to Kimball, the group plans to deliver the project on time and on budget. The proposal will be reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission in September, and has already received approval from the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission.
“We know there’s been some real price fluctuations and inflation,” Kimball reflected. “We’re in an inflationary environment. We’re working very hard to control the costs and still deliver a very significant park upgrade for the residents.”