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The Day – Norwich public forum on COVID relief money changed after mayor’s criticism

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Norwich – An online public forum hosted by City Council Democrats on Wednesday to hear ideas for spending the nearly $ 30 million federal bailout has been heavily criticized by Republican Mayor Peter Nystrom, who said that this would constitute an illegal meeting by a quorum of the board.

The mayor voiced his complaint hours before the evening’s online forum, prompting Democratic Alderman Derell Wilson to change the format. Wilson organized the forum on his own and the other three Democrats on the board did not join the meeting.

But Nystrom and Republican Alderman Stacy Gould joined the forum and participated in the discussion, bringing the board attendance to three members, not a quorum.

Earlier Wednesday, Nystrom complained that Council Democrats had never invited the three Council Republicans and had not invited City Manager John Salomone, who has authority over how the city spends the city’s money. the ARP.

Nystrom cited the city’s charter requirement for 48 hours’ notice for a “special meeting” of city council and said he confirmed to the state’s JTF commission on Wednesday that a online meeting organized by a majority of the board was a special and necessary meeting. to be well noticed.

Thomas Hennick, public information officer for the State FAITH Commission, said in his opinion that if a majority of the council attended a meeting that included a discussion of council business, it should be released. as a special meeting.

At the close of the online forum, Nystrom offered to help schedule future public forums after the board vote on Tuesday on spending the first $ 9.7 million of ARP funds.

Ahead of the forum, Wilson said Council Democrats would post notice of a second online forum scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, also on Zoom. He defended the effort, saying aldermen have an obligation to seek as much public comment as possible for ideas on how to use the single federal windfall for the city.

During the forum itself, several residents urged the council to invest some of these one-time dollars in the city’s youth, including creating a community center, opening schools for the community to use, and supporting the many local nonprofit programs that have filled the gaps for years.

“All those millions of dollars, we’ll never see them again,” said resident Cara-Lynn Turner, member of the popular Night Flight Basketball program.

Turner said the city needs to support programs such as Night Flight, youth football and other youth sports programs, and the Bully Busters anti-bullying coalition.

Deborah Kievits, founder and coordinator of Bully Busters, said the program has survived for the past 20 years with the help of local churches, the old YMCA and other local groups. Donations cover the costs of materials and expenses for a myriad of youth programs organized over the years.

But Kievits said the city needed a youth center. She said Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops are meeting at a local VFW, which also has bars for their members. She said city officials have been talking for years about opening schools for young people, and said the city should just do it – without charging groups prohibitive amounts for janitorial services or security.

She said, “If you don’t invest in our youth this time around, you never will.

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