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Community nonprofits seek federal grant money

August 7, 2018

GREENWICH — Before any final approvals are granted, local nonprofits asked First Selectman Peter Tesei to help them with needed projects by sending federal block grant money their way.

Tesei is considering recommendations from the town’s Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee on how to distribute $329,405 in federal funds to local groups. After receiving more than $1.4 million in requests, the committee turned down some agencies. On Monday night, a public hearing was held for agencies to make their case to Tesei, who has the power to change the committee’s recommendations.

Although more money will be available next year, many said their projects are needed immediately, including Community Centers Inc. at First United Methodist Church, which said it can’t wait until 2019 to rehabilitate its space.

Others made similar arguments in seeking funds.

“The bus is truly central to what we do,” Bob D’Angelo, CEO of the Greenwich YMCA, who asked Tesei to support $60,000 for a new school bus for its early learning center. “We pick up kids from six elementary schools in town. What’s pretty cool about what we do is we take kids that wouldn’t probably get to learn to swim and bus them to the main Y. That bus makes numerous trips every day to numerous locations, and it’s in really, really bad shape.”

Debra Mecky, executive director for the Greenwich Historical Society, also made a case for $77,000 to make the group’s new, expanded campus fully accessible when it opens on Columbus Day weekend. Mecky called it “a once-in-a-lifetime organizational change” and said she wants the campus accessible to the entire community.

“We want to take care of our community, and we should take care of them,” said Bea Crumbine, the town’s ambassador at large and a Historical Society trustee. “More people do want to come (to the historical society) and some groups are waiting for the work to be done. I know this walkway is critical.”

Tesei did not indicate whether he would change any of the committee’s recommendations, which has happened rarely during his time in office. He is expected to make his decision at the Aug. 23 meeting for the Board of Selectmen.

If approvals were granted then, town Community Development Administrator Tyler Fairbairn said it would allow for the needed approval from the Board of Estimate and Taxation in September and then from the Representative Town Meeting in October.

Monday’s hearing was only to consider the allocation of the $329,405. Consideration of requests for the 2019 Community Development Block Grant, which is given out by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will begin early next year.

The allocations that need Tesei’s approval are what was left from the 2018 block grant.

“Last year, we were able to squirrel away about $246,000 in money that we anticipated not getting,” Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee Chair Alexis Voulgaris said. “When we heard that the federal administration was cutting back potentially for the block grants, we were very conservative and we set aside contingency funds. It turns out we got more money than we thought we were getting, so we have these contingency funds for projects that are shovel-ready for this year.”

Additional money to be distributed came from unused funds and items that were reprogrammed. Voulgaris said it all led to a “wonderful opportunity” for the committee to help out some local nonprofits.

“We had to really whittle it down, and I think the committee worked admirably and diligently to figure out a way to give as many programs as possible something so they could continue with the fine work they’re doing,” she said.

Several nonprofits that received the committee’s recommendation appeared Monday as well to thank the committee and to ask Tesei to approve the funds. That included YWCA Greenwich CEO Mary Lee Kiernan, who advocated for approval for the $61,014 set aside for security upgrades, something she said is critical as part of her agency’s domestic violence services.

“Our main concern is the volatile nature of the aggressors we deal with,” Kiernan said. “They may want to gain access to the facility to harm a victim or her children. We do have experience with aggressors showing up at our building.”

Anne Bradner, vice president of development for the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, asked for support for $26,891 for a new heating and air conditioning system and $7,050 for roof repairs to the facility, which serves 1,600 kids per day after school and during the summer, half of whom come from low-income families in town.

“Our current HV/AC system is outmoded and, in fact, they are no longer going to be making parts for it,” Bradner said. “We run the risk of having an emergency. The funds will allow us to have significant cost savings once the new system is in place with energy savings. It will help us do what we do better.”

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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