standing Richmond Town Hall NEW

RICHMOND — With only three of the five members of the Town Council present at last week’s meeting, council members voted to postpone discussions and formal allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funding until July, but directed town staff to be prepared to present a final plan for council consideration — including estimates for equipment and upgrades to improve elementary school safety and town emergency response capabilities.

Though discussions were kept to a minimum, Council Vice President Jim Palmisciano said it was important for council members to carefully consider recommendations and be prepared to move forward in approving spending by the time the subject returns before the council on July 12.

“I would love to bring this toward a close and would ask the administration to take all the recommendations they have and come back to us (in July),” Palmisciano said. “At the end of the day, the council has the authorization to approve, deny and discuss whatever recommendation is brought forward.”

Palmisciano said he envisions the July meeting as the time for members of the public to express their opinion as well.

With Council President Nell Carpenter and member Lauren Cacciola absent, Palmisciano and members Rich Nassaney and Ronald Newman held only a brief discussion before extending the vote and decisions until July.

Palmisciano also directed staff, in a separate item under new business, to explore grant opportunities and possible use of some ARPA funding to provide police with equipment to enhance response in the event of an emergency, as well as further securing Richmond Elementary School. The request expands on an idea presented during the previous Richmond Town Council meeting, when Palmisciano, with support from other council members, asked staff to work with police and fire administrators following a May 24 attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead.

“It’s worth looking at our schools, looking at how we may be able to use the ARPA money to reinforce training, security and things for our police department to enhance how they are able to react in a time of need,” Palmisciano said during a meeting in late May.

For Richmond officials, the hope is that the council will be able to allocate much of the designated $2.3 million in ARPA funding for the community.

To date, the council has committed just $174,000 to various projects or initiatives, including $46,050 and a matching grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, hiring program; $64,000 for digital police radios; $20,000 to fund a health care advocate position that would coordinate with the Richmond Police Department; $24,000 for IT computer equipment; and $20,000 for equipment purchases for Beaver River Park.

During the May meeting, in which town Wellness Committee Chairwoman Pamela A. Rohland said although it may seem like a large cost up front, the committee’s study of the benefits showed hiring a human services director would far outweigh the costs over time. She sought expedited approval to begin the hiring process and get the position filled for the coming fiscal year.

Finance Director Laura Kenyon, who also serves on the Wellness Committee, told council members last week that although it would be beneficial to move forward sooner than later, approving funding in late June instead of early July would not make much difference. Palmisciano asked for staff to consider additional options as well, including estimating what the costs may become to keep the director on staff at the end of the ARPA/grant period.

Kenyon noted that there are multiple options and that the town could potentially benefit from hiring the position, even if it decides not to move forward in keeping it.

“If the position is grant-funded, then that could put the town in a place where the position is subject to a review after a three-year position and it would be able to cut off funding if it determined it was not beneficial,” Kenyon explained.

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