Exploring Fairfield's ARPA Funds
First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick emphasized that one of her goals in putting together the city’s plan was to distribute funds broadly—give a little bit to as many areas of the city as possible.
“My administration spent a considerable amount of time … reviewing all the waterfall projects, looking at the federal guidelines, to try to fit and work in a way that would give some benefit to a large percentage of our community in many different ways,” she told the Representative Town Meeting at its Sept. 27 meeting.
Fairfield chose six major areas to dedicate its ARPA funds to:
• mental health and social services
• economic development
• public safety
• quality of life: recreation, arts and culture
• town modernization and infrastructure
So far the Board of Selectmen, the RTM, and the Board of Finance have approved a plan to spend $24,790,000 of the ARPA funds, with just about $450,000 remaining that has not yet been approved.
Let’s take a look at each of those areas:
Mental Health and Social Services
COVID-19 Recovery Fund: $250,000
For recovery efforts to help eligible residents who are struggling due to the economic challenges posed by the pandemic. Eligible residents can get help with bills such as rent or mortgage, auto expenses, utilities, and food.
Lifebridge Community Services: $150,000
For increasing access to behavioral health care in Fairfield. The funds will go to partnering with local organizations and businesses to provide information and connections; resiliency-focused workshops; and a scholarship program to help those who can’t afford treatment.
Child and Family Guidance Center: $150,000
For supporting the efforts of the Child & Family Guidance Center, which provides culturally competent, best-practice trauma treatment and care management to Fairfield children, teens, and caregivers, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.
Operation Hope: $150,000
For meeting the needs of the Fairfield community through providing groceries, meals, housing, and compassion. This funding will go to a food services manager to support the 40% increase in pantry use and 32% increase in meals served during the pandemic; homeless resource center staff; and homeless prevention coordination.
Plan of Conservation & Development, Zoning Regulation Review: $175,000
For reviewing and modernizing the town’s zoning regulations to reflect the plans laid out in its 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development. According to the town, an updated POCD is “critical to the town’s business investment and attraction efforts.”
Downtown Resiliency Project with Permeable Surfacing $1,420,000
For installing green infrastructure to address flooding and improve resiliency in downtown Fairfield. According to Kupchick, this project was “the largest ask by the business community” in that area. “The goal is to reduce flooding,” Engineering Manager Bill Hurley told the Board of Finance in Sept. 2021. “A lot of this (area) was developed with very little green infrastructure.” When it rains, particularly at rates of two or more inches per hour, Hurley said that it becomes “too much water for the pipes to handle so the water start to back up and flood the downtown area.”
Body Cameras, Dashboard Cameras & Tasers: $3,700,000
For providing equipment, transparency, training, and accountability for the Fairfield Police Department, particularly to address legislative changes and “the necessity to evolve as a police agency.” This is one of the largest single uses of ARPA funds and will include Axon “hardware, software, accessories, training programs,” and programs to help officers “better connect with the public on calls for services.”
Perry’s Green Bulkhead: $1,000,000
For replacing the existing bulkhead at Perry’s Green Park at Southport Harbor to help “secure the surrounding park area from erosion, prevent sinkholes, and remove a potentially dangerous structure.”
Town Wide Guard Rail and Fence Improvements: $200,000
For replacing guardrails and fences to “increase pedestrian and traffic safety.”
Firehouse Renovations: $500,000
For completing some key pieces in the fire station rehabilitation project. The projects include: renovating the administrative offices, first floor living spaces, and Jennings Road living spaces; designing the Reef Road Elevator for ADA compliance and the Apparatus Maintenance Facilities; and construction the storage addition to the Reef Road Firehouse.
Fill Pile Remediation: $1,000,000
For ongoing remediation efforts to clean up contamination. This funding will go toward the remediation plan that is approved by the town’s licensed environmental professional, DEEP, and EPA. Town officials have said that they will host a meeting with members of the public to provide details of the plan and answer questions once it is completed.
Electric/Hybrid Town Vehicles and Charging Stations: $940,000
For replacing part of the town fleet of cars with electric vehicles. Fairfield has about 30 older Crown Victorias that need to be replaced due to age and maintenance requirements. This request would cover replacing half of them with electric cars and providing updated electrical service at Independence Hall. Kupchick told the Board of Finance that town employees who use the cars every day, such as health and building inspectors, will get this first batch of 15 and then they’ll review the town's needs for how many others will be replaced.
Burr Historical Gardens: $25,000
For supporting site improvements at the public garden. The funds will be matched by private donors to help make the needed upgrades.
Rooster River Detention Area: $3,250,000
For reducing flooding potential within the Rooster River watershed. Flooding in 2006, 2007, and 2018 impacted multiple streets and neighborhoods, with some areas flooding even more frequently.
“I can’t tell you how many people who I’ve been talking to who have been devastated by the flooding … who have huge amounts of damage,” said Sheila Marmion, a member of the Board of Finance. “They’re so excited this is going to be funded.”
Kupchick said that this project has been on the town’s list for quite some time. “I’m very glad we’re able to include it and get started on it as soon as possible,” she said.
The project includes: construction of detention areas, potential property acquisition, wetland mitigation, landscaping, and inspection.
High Intensity Wave/Erosion Damage and Resiliency Study: $400,000
For conducting a study and doing preliminary design work on potential solutions to mitigate high intensity wave and erosion damage along the coastline.
Quality of Life: Recreation, Arts, and Culture:
Playground Renovations and Upgrades: $925,000
For updating and renovating Fairfield’s playgrounds. This proposal includes work at: Tunxis Hill, Melville Park, Lincoln Park, Dover Park, and Highwood Park.
Jennings Beach Concession: $100,000
For refreshing and improving the building at Jennings Beach. This project includes: a facelift to the concession, kitchen upgrades, improvements to the lifeguard office, and sunshade and seating for guests.
Golf Course Equipment Maintenance: $230,000
For purchasing machines to help with the upkeep of the town’s golf courses.
Fairfield Theater Company: $50,000
For helping with costs related to helping improve the outdoor community concerts, such as helping provide permanent fencing and power.
Bigelow Center for Senior Activities Upgrades: $850,000
For upgrades and modernization at the town’s senior center. This project aims to “modernize the Senior Center building and to provide much needed upgrades to the building’s infrastructure and make portions of the building ADA compliant.” The work will include new bathrooms, HVAC, and updates to the kitchen.
Bigelow Center for Senior Activities Patio: $100,000
For providing seniors with an outdoor patio for lunches, events, and other gatherings outdoors.
ADA Consultant: $75,000
For producing a report for how the town can better comply with the Americans for Disabilities Act. The goal is to help identify gaps in policies and procedures and barriers that limit access to programs and services, and then present recommendations to the town for how those can be addressed.
Pedestrian Safety: $700,000
For improving sidewalks and connectivity. One project, the Stratfield Road and Fairfield Woods Four Corner Installation, aims to enhance pedestrian safety by making streetscape improvements, such as installing concrete walks and curbs, doing landscape work, and putting in ornamental street lights. About $450,000 in ARPA will go to this project, along with a $650,000 Urban Act grant, which costs $1.35 million total.
The other project, the Southport Connectivity Project, aims to “rehabilitate, enhance and enrich the pedestrian experience along the Post Road corridor,” with new ADA compliant sidewalks and pedestrian ramps, curbs, pedestrian signals, traffic calming measures, pavement marks, and landscaping.
Public Feedback Needed:
One item has been removed for now in order to get more public feedback—a performance stage and public restrooms at the Town Green costing $450,000. Members of the town’s RTM raised concerns about lack of public input and concern from some of the neighbors about this use on the site.
“I received a lot of emails from my constituents who are neighbors of the museum,” Representative Dru Georgiadis, District 9, said. “Everyone in this district is concerned about the floodplain … in District 9 we already are really good citizens of Fairfield. An outdoor theater would add noise, light—the neighbors don’t support it.”
“There was really no plan from my perspective,” Representative Bill Perugini, District 9, added. “The ask was for funds in advance of a detailed plan.”
Town Modernization and Infrastructure
Diversity and Inclusion Consultant: $75,000
For a consultant to work with the town’s Racial, Equity, and Justice Task and review its blueprint that outlines goals, actions, and timelines for improvement. The consultant will work to help implement the recommendations once adopted.
HVAC for Fairfield Public Schools: $1,000,000
For adding air conditioning to the sixth grade wing of Fairfield Woods Middle School.
Town and Board of Education Fiber Optic Network: $2,400,000
For the town to install its own network infrastructure to connect the 20 town buildings and 20 BOE buildings to each other and the internet without having to lease the connections from other providers. According to town officials, right now the city spends more than $340,000 a year on leases for fiber optic.
Paving and Sidewalk Repair $3,000,000
For paving and repairing sidewalks throughout the town based on the roadway review documents.
Traffic Lights: $1,000,000
For improvements to the town’s 15 intersections that it maintains, with a goal of improving traffic safety and the flow of traffic throughout the area.
Hybrid Town Meetings: $400,000
For upgrading the current live-streaming capabilities of Fairfield and its Board of Education. The upgrades would include ceiling mounted microphones and cameras that will connect to the Fair TV broadcast network.
Digitizing Records: $125,000
For digitizing hard copies of records throughout town departments, particularly the permitting ones.