Newport This Week

Middletown Council Weighs Foundation Grant

Community Blessings Foundation, a local nonprofit launched in 2020 that assists people with substance abuse recovery and mental health disorders, is asking the Middletown Town Council for a $20,000 municipal grant to supplement the cost for volunteers who drive clients to substance abuse centers, court appointments, medical facilities, employment and other basic needs for healthy recovery living.

James McKenna, the foundation’s president, told the council on Aug. 15 that it provides approximately 1,200 trips annually and relies heavily on grants and private donations.

The council had previously asked the foundation to provide more data regarding the percentage of clients who reside in Middletown in an effort to assure that tax dollars go to residents as much as possible. McKenna said about 30 percent of their trips are for residents.

“We are not paying [drivers] money to make the trips,” he said. “We are just reimbursing them for mileage.”

Councilors also requested information on the funding Community Blessings has received from other municipalities in Newport County.

“We want to make sure Middletown is not footing the bill for everybody,” said council President Paul Rodrigues.

The foundation has also applied to the state for a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $1.5 million, federal money allocated from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It has entered into long-term leases and plans to use the funds to convert and manage St. Lucy’s Parish and the former St. Lucy’s Hearth Women and Children’s Center into residential and outpatient facilities.

The town submitted an application on behalf of Community Blessings for a block grant as part of its 2021 submissions. According to town planner Ron Wolanski, they are now waiting to hear back from the state on the application’s status.

As for the transportation funding request, councilor Terri Flynn requested McKenna provide a “profile of your client base.”

“This isn’t our money; this is the taxpayer’s money,” she said. “And we are bound to justify it.”

The council postponed approval for the transportation grant to the next regular meeting.

In other matters:

– The council directed town solicitor Peter Regan to draft an amendment to council rules to allow the town to advertise vacancies on volunteer boards and committees in alternative publications, on websites and on social media. State law requires all other municipal advertisements, such as ordinance amendments and legal notices, be placed in a “newspaper in general circulation.”

Hoping to defray the rising cost of purchasing advertisements for notices that do not fall under the state law, town administrator Shawn Brown has been working with Regan on an official policy change.

“The costs of newspaper ads have been an ongoing issue,” said Regan. “When you add it all up over the course of a year, it is astronomical.”

– The council approved several special-event permits including: the Norman Bird Sanctuary for a Beach Bash on Aug. 18.; Middletown Prevention Coalition for Middletown Family Day on Sachuest Beach, Sept. 24; and the Newport County YMCA’s 37th annual Thanksgiving Day Pie Run on Nov. 24.

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