April 25, 2024

Meriden City Council delays funds for YMCA roof repairs

MERIDEN — The City Council again postponed allocating nearly $200,000 in American Rescue Plan funds to the YMCA for roof repairs during a meeting this week. 

Members voted to postpone action to the first council meeting in February, pending a report from Finance Director Michael Lupkas to the American Rescue Plan Steering Committee to discuss how much money they still had left to use with the continually rising construction costs. 

The $198,000 is in addition to $200,000 already approved for the project. After the Y had to find a contractor to assess the roof, it was faced with a far greater cost than first estimated — project bids came in twice the initial amount. 

Approval of the amount was initially delayed in September, as the council wanted the American Rescue Plan Steering Committee to act on applications of other projects — not wanting to turn down other applicants by exhausting the last of the money for the Y’s roof replacement. The committee ended up approving four projects since September, or around half of the submitted applications, leaving $1.5 million in the town’s ARPA reserves.

Mayor Kevin Scarpati attempted to advocate for the project, saying during Monday night’s meeting that the city should provide the funds ahead of worsening winter conditions.

“The reduction of this roughly close to $200,000 still leaves sufficient funds left for outstanding projects, including the applications that have not yet been heard. And I can tell you with my conversations with YMCA officials who are calling me frantic based off the storm today, let alone last Monday, when we had inches of rain as well,” Scarpati said. 

“They need a roof, the weather is not getting any better. I think we owe it to them to at least give them some direction or reassurance that they can or should start this project.”

According to Scarpati, Lupkas recommended an increase of $235,000 for the roof replacement project as he felt there were some contingency costs needed to move it forward, but that Y officials were so in need of the money they would be willing to find alternative funding sources were they to go over the initial amount. 

The council would vote unanimously to postpone.

“I do think we need at least two more meetings before we can move forward with the decision,” said Democratic council member Yvette Cortez. “We had initially set a deadline of Sept. 23 by when we wanted to have all of the money allocated. Given the issue with the city manager (Tim Coon resigning), there was months delay in that process, and so by next month, we should be at the point where all of the applicants have been heard and a decision has been made on all of them.

“I think by the first meeting in February, we will have all the information that the council has asked for.”

Similarly, Majority Leader Sonya Jelks noted that several of the other applicants had issues with their roofs and the delays were impacting them as well. She wanted to ensure that all the open applications left in front of the committee were closed out by January. 

The roof on the YMCA building at 110 West Main St. hasn’t seen any significant refit since its construction in 1996, 27 years ago. The current state of the roof has caused significant leaks during storms, exacerbated by the rain over the past two weeks. While YMCA officials say it’s not a safety hazard to guests, they have had to move programs around to other rooms during particularly harsh weather events.

“The roof is not getting any better, I can tell you that,” said YMCA CEO John Benigni. “So the longer we wait, the more potential for need and more potential for bigger leaks and more damage to the building. At this point, we have managed that, and we will continue to do that to the best of our abilities. … So our anticipation is to fix this roof as soon as possible with limited delays and services to our members.”

Benigni said that he was surprised it was necessary to have an architect design the new roof as part of the ARPA process, not feeling it was needed at the time. The process, he said, caused the cost to balloon due to having to pay the engineers for the work, and their initial estimates had only factored in the costs for the re-roofing itself.

Still, he thanked the Council for getting the Y the initial funding and remained hopeful that they would see the remainder of the funds in February.

“It’s in disrepair, it needs to be repaired. I mean, it needs to be,” Benigni said. “It’s on borrowed time. Let’s leave it at that.”


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