Report by Paula Antolini, April 21, 2022, 10:27AM EDT
We have information that Bethel First Selectman Knickerbocker has appointed a committee of 7 individuals, including himself, to have private meetings to decide how to spend approximately $6 million (exact figure: $5,794,999) from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R.1319) grant they will receive.
The concern from Bethel residents is, these are ad-hoc meetings in which the dates, time and location are not available to the public or published, and there is no published agenda or meeting minutes, and meetings will not be recorded as far as we know.
Does the public have any voice in how these funds are spent? And if not, why not? Why doesn’t the public have access, notices or records about these meetings? Why the secrecy?
The members of the committee are shown below, and all are employees. As we mentioned, First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker appointed himself to the committee, and we believe the Board of Selectmen (BOS) eventually approves the decisions on what projects will be presented to the BOS for approval of the use of these funds. So how does that work?
Committee Members are:
Brad Heering (Comptroller), Chair
Matt Knickerbocker (Bethel First Selectman)
Janice Chrzescijanek (EDC Director)
Nick Cataldo (IT)
Eileen Earle (Parks & Rec Director)
Lisa Plumb (Senior Center Director)
Eric Swenson (Public Works Director)
THE AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT OF 2021
According to the CT General Assembly:
“The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) (H.R. 1319) was signed into law on March 11. It is
the sixth COVID -19 relief bill and provides significant resources to: (1) the State of Connecticut
($4.77 billion), (2) cities and towns ($1.56 billion), (3) independent agencies ($1.67 million), and
(4) direct payments to Connecticut residents ($3.93 billion).”
STATE AND LOCAL AID
State Fiscal Recovery Fund
Provides direct aid to help the State cover increased expenditures, replenish lost revenue, and
mitigate economic harm for the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the funds can be used in the
following areas up to December 31, 2024:
• Respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and cover costs related to it, including
assistance to households, small businesses, non-profits, and affected industries such as tourism,
travel, and hospitality;
• Provide premium pay to state, territory, or tribal government workers who perform essential
work or provide grants to employers with employees that provide essential work;
• Provide government services to the extent lost revenue from the public health emergency,
relative to revenues in the fiscal year prior to the pandemic;
• Make investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
ARP includes the following restrictions on the use of funds:
• Reduce taxes directly or indirectly between March 3, 2021 and the last day of the fiscal year in
which funds received have been spent or returned;
• Make payments to pension funds.
Agency: Governor’s Office and OPM
Intended Population: Statewide
Eligibility: States, the District of Columbia, Tribal governments, and US Territories
We are looking into the process* and statutes* and Charter codes* of what is required regarding availability of information and access to meetings by the public. Also First Selectman Knickerbocker is out of the office until next week. We also have a call into the Town Attorney to clarify, but no response yet.
*This is a developing story, we will update this article as we receive more info. Please check back.
Photo: File photo of First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker from July 29, 2021 (Photo ©2021 BETHEL ADVOCATE / Paula Antolini)