RTM Approves $70K in ARPA Funds for BACA

RTM Approves $70K in ARPA Funds for BACA

The $70,000 allocation from among Branford’s $8.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds will be put toward strategic planning to develop and grow Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance (BACA) gallery space at 1004 Main Street as a business entity and economic driver attracting customer traffic to downtown Branford. Pam Johnson/The Sound

Branford’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) has voted 26-0-1 in favor of designating $70,000 among Branford’s $8.2 million federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to non-profit Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance (BACA).

The one-time allocation follows federal ARPA guidelines as the funding will assist with economic recovery post-pandemic. The $70,000 will be put toward strategic planning to develop and grow BACA’s gallery space at 1004 Main Street as a business entity and economic driver attracting customer traffic to downtown Branford.

Previously supported in May by a vote of the Board of Finance (BOF), the $70,000 BACA request was rolled into a single motion before the RTM on Oct. 12 which sought approval of a total of $95,000 in ARPA funding, including $25,000 earmarked for a Branford-based Shoreline Chamber of Commerce (SCC) program.

Having the two items rolled into one motion, as well as seeking some further specifics from BACA, caused a snag during review by the RTM Ways and Means Committee on Oct. 5, which voted 2-1-1 to recommend that the full RTM deny both appropriations.

After hearing the committee report on Oct. 12, RTM member Donald Conklin (R, District 5) made a motion to amend the committee’s motion to deny, and instead reinstate the request of $70,000 for BACA and $25,000 for SCC “…as presented and as passed by our Board of Finance,” said Conklin.

Rep. Josh Brooks (D, District 2) made a motion to re-refer the item in order to have BACA provide more information for the RTM Ways and Means Committee to review.

“Normally people come to us with all the information,” said Brooks. “My guess is there would have been more support had there been more information on the night of Ways and Means. My concern about the vote tonight is that it could fail because of lack of information.”

Brooks’ motion to re-refer failed in a vote. The RTM then voted to support Conklin’s motion to reinstate. Next, before moving on to vote on the main motion to appropriate the funding, Brooks requested a brief recess; granted by moderator Dennis Flanigan (R, District 5).

Following the recess, BACA president Frank Carrano offered the RTM some further explanation, in response to “…some of the issues that I’ve heard raised tonight,” he said.

Carrano said he thought the RTM wanted four questions answered: is it an appropriate use of ARPA funds, why does BACA’s budget show deficits, what would BACA do with the funds, and what good would the appropriation do for Branford?

“In the research I did, and conversations I had with [Finance Director] Jim Finch and Board of Finance, we were led to believe that the funds were being drawn [from] monies that would be used appropriately for economic development,” Carrano said.

He said BACA’s gallery is an “economic development driver” and noted 22 downtown businesses signed a statement supporting the continuation of the BACA gallery.

“I went to every store [and] everyone said ‘yes,’ immediately…they understood why they should sign up. So I felt that validated what we have been doing, and it validates what we hope to do to continue to do and improve doing, if we get the funds,” said Carrano.

As to BACA’s budget deficits, Carrano said BACA may have been “overly cautious” when projecting budgets for the next 3 years; as BACA has already “overreached our goal” for fundraising this budget year. He noted the fact the goal was accomplished “…under the difficult circumstances we are all facing financially” suggests BACA will also be successful with future goals.

Carrano said the BACA didn’t supply a specific ARPA fund-use budget because BACA didn’t have the money in hand. He emphasized the funding will not be used to pay bills or rent; rather, BACA’s intent is to use it to help develop the gallery as “business entity.”

“So we didn’t have a specific outlay of the funds; but we know the money will be used not to pay the rent; but to do strategic planning that will better position us to continue to be successful to grow and develop as a business entity,” said Carrano. “We are a non-profit arts organization, and now we’re running a business, so we have to be able to learn to do that [and] expand marketing…so the money that you allocate to us [is] going to help us do that.”

Carrano co-founded BACA 8 years ago. The BACA gallery was opened at 1004 Main Street in June of 2021. In the past 8 years, Carrano noted BACA “…has never asked the Town of Branford for any money whatsoever. Not one dollar.”

In response to “What good does this do for Branford?” Carrano said, in part,“…we are, in fact, an economic development driver [and] I think the benefit would be something that each and every person that lives in Branford will derive something from. [We will] continue to help the center of Branford grow and prosper. Citizens will able to enjoy and appreciate the arts. [So] it’s my belief that if you vote in favor of this motion, you’re voting for Branford’s future, at many levels.”

First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove also spoke to the RTM Oct. 12 in support of providing the ARPA funding to BACA.

“I think we have to ask how do we want to deploy these dollars, what are we trying to accomplish? And I think it’s supporting not only BACA the organization and the gallery, but it’s also supporting the community,” said Cosgrove.

Cosgrove said the BACA gallery, as a business entity, is a “start-up” that should be supported in its efforts to be a downtown economic driver; and that success will also allow BACA to be successful as a self-sustaining non-profit.

“It’s a start-up and they’re going to continue to build. And I think they are only going to be successful if they can show the community is behind them, first,” said Cosgrove. “I think that is going to help them be successful in getting grants, that will help them be successful in getting sponsorships and donations; and more importantly, that will help them being successful in being a destination in terms of attracting people to come there and support not only gallery, but the other businesses that are on the green.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *