By Collin Dias
On Wednesday, January 5th, two days after the city inauguration, Mayor Coogan announced the second allocation of Fall River’s American Rescue Plan Act funds. One of the allocations was to the Bristol County Economic Development Consultants, otherwise known as “Jobs for Fall River “. This allocation is in the amount of 3.26 million dollars of public funds, to one, non-public organization, aimed provide minimal aid to small businesses in Fall River.
This letter is not meant to be an attack on BCEDC, or any allocation of wrongdoing on their part. And I have great respect for Mr. Fiola, and I recognize the years of accomplishments and great work him and his organization have put into this community. This letter is more an observation of the lack of organization, and the lack of planning by the Coogan administration to maintain our city funds. Mayor Coogan is looking to expend millions of dollars to one organization without any checks and balances or legislative oversight.
The mayor established a “dog and pony” ARPA committee to advise the mayor of where to allocate the ARPA funds. The executive Vice President of BCEDC is a member of this committee. Is that not a conflict of interest? This ARPA committee has held most of its meetings out of the public eye and has had only a few public hearings to hear the wishes of the public. The mayor had explained, through his surrogates to the city council, that he believes he has unilateral control to expend the entire $69 million dollar allocation without the approval of anyone else.
When you look closely at this 3.26-million-dollar allocation, a few questions arise.
Question #1: Will Jobs for Fall River be required to submit periodic reports demonstrating how the funds are being used? The community development agency does something to a similar effect, to assure public dollars are being used for the purpose of the allocation. I had a similar question once with the Fall River CDA when they once made an allocation to a small business. The Community Development Agency showed me how they are keeping account on how this said business is using the grant money. They had to submit periodic reports on how they are expending their grant money.
Question #2: This question is similar to question one. Is there going to be any accountability as to how these funds are going to be used? Will the public be able to see where exactly Jobs for Fall River expends these funds? Particularly I wish to see, as I’m sure the public would as well, how much of these funds will go to salary and other administrative costs.
Question #3: Will the public be able to see what businesses receive grant money and for how much?
Question #4: Why is there a big allocation of funds and such a small amount being provided to small businesses?
Question #5: Why was this allocation announced before the application process and the program itself is not even completed?
The remaining questions now remain, is Mayor Coogan looking to help the City recover from an ongoing pandemic or is he going to continue to mismanage the city’s finances while providing his friends in government millions of dollars of taxpayer funds.
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