Sherman approves COVID budget partnership with New Fairfield, but some issues need to be worked out

Photo of Kendra Baker

SHERMAN — The town of Sherman has decided to get on board with New Fairfield’s proposed $200,000 COVID budget — or at least parts of it.

The Board of Selectmen held a special meeting Saturday morning to decide whether the town would put money into a COVID-related fund that would allow the municipalities to pay for services and initiatives like vaccinations and contact tracing over the next several months.

Last month, New Fairfield proposed and approved the budget with Sherman in mind. First Selectman Pat Del Monaco said the plan was to do the budgeted services and initiatives in conjunction with the neighboring town, from which 20 percent reimbursement would be sought.

New Fairfield had been awaiting word on Sherman’s involvement with the budget — and an answer came Saturday, when the Sherman Board of Selectmen voted to let New Fairfield know that it would like to be included.

“It’s a very simple budget,” First Selectman Don Lowe said during Saturday’s special virtual meeting. “There are things that we may definitely want to be part of and there are things that we really don’t need to be part of, and we won’t be on the hook for paying for (the latter).”

The COVID-19 budget includes $120,000 for vaccination services, $47,700 for contact tracing, $17,000 for increased hours for New Fairfield’s emergency management director, $13,000 for communications, $4,300 for two community testing sessions and $2,000 for post-clinic cleaning services.

Lowe said he believes vaccination services and contact tracing would benefit Sherman, but the rest of the COVID budget wouldn’t be necessary for the town. Based on the presented budget, Lowe estimated the maximum cost to Sherman would be around $34,000 to $35,000.

Tim Simpkins, who serves as health director for Sherman and New Fairfield, said the COVID budget stemmed from weekly vaccination-planning meetings he started having with New Fairfield Second Selectman Khris Hall in November.

“Through the process, we determined that we’re going to need money because we’ve got things and needs that need to be met,” he said. “Khris brought this before the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance in New Fairfield and she got a $200,000 budget approved.”

The budget is intended to cover COVID-realted expenses through April, and the numbers in it are estimates.

“These are rough numbers,” said Simpkins, noting that money that doesn’t get used would go back into New Fairfield’s general fund and Sherman would not pay for any unused funds. “I think it’s a little exaggerated. I don’t think we’re going to spend this kind of money — especially for the vaccination process.”

The $120,000 for vaccination services is an estimate of what the Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association might charge if they are needed to administer vaccines. Simpkins said he has been seeking volunteers to reduce costs and his search has yielded “pretty good” results.

“I’ve got at least a dozen volunteer vaccinators and school nurses willing to participate,” he said. “We’ve had quite a response from non-medical volunteers too.”

Simpkins said the RVNA has committed to assisting with vaccination services and gave him a cost estimate of $75 to $100 an hour.

At that rate, he said he thinks the cost for vaccination services wll come in under $120,000.

Simpkins said New Fairfield and Sherman are expected to receive Maderna vaccines, which will be held at police headquarters for security, as well as refrigeration purposes.

“There’s a generator up there (and) it’s essential that it stays at a certain temperature,” he said.

The COVID budget includes $47,700 for contact tracing because the state grant used by the towns to cover the cost is nearly expended.

Simpkins said there is some grant money available that he’s trying to get for the towns, but it wouldn’t be a lot — $54,000 for New Fairfield and $10,000 for Sherman over three years. Nevertheless, he said, he’s applying for it.

Next steps

Sherman’s three selectmen agreed that getting involved with New Fairfield’s COVID budget would be worth it.

“We still have a lot of things to resolve, but I (think) it’s worth jumping in to make sure that we provide as much coverage as possible,” Bob Ostrosky said.

Lowe agreed and said “it’s just too important of an issue to miss out on.”

The Board of Selectmen plans to address appropriating funds from the capital and non-recurring fund for the COVID-related services at an upcoming meeting. Lowe said that meeting will most likely be at the end of this month.