There has been a lot of great news for Bristol over the last 30 days. First, Congressman John Larson called in early March to give me a preview of what the American Rescue Plan dollars could mean for Bristol if passed by Congress: $17 million for the City and $19 million for the Board of Education, which can be spent over the next three years.
These are big numbers, and while we are waiting to receive detailed guidance from the US Department of Treasury as to how the funds may be spent, we are already looking at potential projects. Some of them include one-time purchases of equipment like network improvements to the City’s technology infrastructure; the HVAC mechanicals at South Side School, and the replacement of emergency generators at fire houses. There are also categories for “economic aid and recovery,” as well as non-profit partnerships,” so we anticipate working with our friends from the Chamber of Commerce and various non-profits as well.
Today marks the first day of the mass vaccination clinic on Middle Street at the ESPN North campus. With the age group now opening to anyone 16 years old and above being eligible, we have been working diligently to create a centralized location that would be convenient and accessible. Thanks to ESPN, a great corporate neighbor, we now have a location, and thanks to the leadership and collaboration of our friends at Bristol Health and our own Bristol-Burlington Health District, we have enough vaccine supply flowing to support this site. Those interested in utilizing this site should call 1-877-918-2224 to make an appointment. On North Main Street, Community Health Centers continues to operate the Covid testing center across from City Hall, and mobile vaccination clinics at their building on the corner of North Main and Race Streets when vaccine supply allows.
In addition, Governor Lamont is sending an additional $5.4 million to Bristol; half of which we can use for covid related expenses and the other half for other projects. Some items that we have identified include the repair of the Memorial Boulevard retaining wall that collapsed and the reclamation and reconstruction of several roads as part of the annual paving program. All other state funding has remained constant for this fiscal year as well. Last Wednesday night, the Board of Finance reviewed the most version draft of the proposed 2021-2022 budget, which is scheduled to include the same senior tax relief component as last year, as well as a zero tax increase for everyone. Kudos to the department heads who worked hard to prioritize their needs, and the Board of Finance, Board of Education and staff, the City Council members and Comptroller’s office for working diligently to evaluate all the different pools of available funds and assign them to the best use.
This month marks the ninth month in which the United Way and the City of Bristol have partnered to distribute the Farmers to Families Food boxes. Since June 30, over 22,000 free boxes including a gallon of milk, produce, dairy, fruit and vegetables have been distributed. With an average value of $30, this means that there has been approximately $660,000 worth of healthy food delivered to households.
One of the most daunting aspects of the Covid pandemic was realizing the depth of food insecurity across all demographics. Luckily, All Heart City had a response. In addition to the Farmers to Families program, the Board of Education has also distributed thousands of free breakfasts and lunches. This continues this week as students are on April vacation, and will also continue through the summer.
Sen. Murphy visits
Last Friday, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy visited the Meals for Neighbors program at Zion Lutheran Church to see volunteers at work packing Easter meal kits, as well as the food pantry that saw a steady rise in clientele since last year. He asked about our social safety net and was duly impressed with the response that United Way President Donna Osuch, Councilwoman Mary Fortier and Van Monak Chhun from MFN gave him about the generosity of Bristol residents and businesses who keep the food pantries stocked, as well as help with meeting other basic needs. It’s what makes Bristol All Heart, and why we have so much to look forward to in the coming year.