Montville ― The town has awarded the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post $90,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to repair its aging building.
At a meeting Monday night, the Town Council amended its agenda to award the post the $90,000 it requested. The council was initially prepared to provide just $35,000 in funding.
“I think it’s crazy if we do not pass this amendment,” Councilor Al Mandler, the chair of the Ad-Hoc COVID-19 Impact Study Committee, said to the 30 or so residents in attendance.
The motion passed unanimously. Councilors Tim May and Colleen Rix were absent. Councilor Billy Caron abstained from the vote due to a potential conflict of interest with the project.
“I’m relieved,” Post 10060 Commander Dave Lamirande said. “It’s like they waved a magic wand and are going to fix all my problems.”
Thirteen people, some in military uniform, voiced their support for the VFW before the council.
“We take care of the community,” Nage Wong, a member of the post, said.
It wasn’t an easy road to securing the funding. Lamirande said once he heard about the COVID relief funds, he immediately reached out to US Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Second District, who directed him to discuss the request with the town.
After reaching out to the council in February, it took until the Ad-Hoc committee’s Aug. 9 meeting for the matter to be discussed. The committee originally proposed to give the VFW $50,000 but then reduced it to $35,000 because committee members were concerned the VFW earned profits from its bar.
“Let me be clear,” Lamirande said Monday night. “VFW Post 10060 is not a bar.”
“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to fix the VFW’s problems,” he added.
Located at 91 Raymond Hill Road, the post’s 174-year old building currently is in a state of disrepair. Lamirande explained to the council there are broken stairs and doors. The flooring upstairs and the tiles downstairs need to be replaced. The windows need to be repaired as they let heat and cool air escape. The heating and air conditioning inefficiencies cost the post more than $2,000 last month, a bill paid for by the posts’ members.
Lamirande said the post is a non-profit organization that raises funds from its canteen and renting out its hall for parties. Weddings and baby showers are also common, and the post hosts celebrations of life at no cost to the family. None of this fundraising was possible during the pandemic.
“That’s what this ARPA funds are about,” Councilor Lenny Bunnell Sr. said in support.
“They deserved to be helped,” added Councilor Billy Caron. “We owe it to you.”
For the past two years, Lamirande said the post supported itself. He said it paid for oil, electricity and insurance. Members passed hats around at meetings for donations from those who could afford it.
Lamirande said the building has been a “daily stress” for him as he has not been able to focus on the community work the VFW prides itself on. The VFW hosts the annual Memorial Day parade, the annual flag retirement ceremony and is now responsible for the Veteran’s Day luminaries, formerly handled by the American Legion.
“We served then and we are proudly still serving here in Montville now,” Lamirande, a six-year US Army veteran, said.
The VFW post is also home to Boy Scout Troop 67, the Groton Sea Cadets, the Marine Corp. League and the American Legion Post 112 Auxiliary group.