Norwalk council gives NEON a break, and an extension

Norwalk Planning Committee re NEON 071513 004
Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) Facilities/Maintenance Manager Charles Brown and NEON Chief Operating Officer Chiquita Stephenson listen to Common Council members discuss their desire for an extension on NEON’s 2012 CDBG loan.

NORWALK, Conn. – An unprecedented exception is in the process of being made for South Norwalk’s anti-poverty agency.

Members of the Common Council Planning Committee voted Monday night to recommend the entire council allow Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) an additional 150 days to take advantage of a 2012 Community Block Development Grant, although Redevelopment Agency Director Tim Sheehan said that, technically, NEON is not eligible for an extension.

NEON was granted $21,000 matching 2012-2013 Community Development Block Grant to make needed improvements in Norwalk Child Development Program bathrooms but has not made deadlines in spite of repeated appeals from city officials.

The grant, for the program year that ended June 30, is earmarked for renovations to bathrooms at the Ben Franklin community center, where NEON runs child development programs. NEON was notified of the award June 22, 2012 and received the official paperwork Sept. 6, 2012. That paperwork included a timeline that required half the money to be drawn down by March 30 and the project to be completed by June 15.

Chief Operating Officer Chiquita Stephenson promised council members Monday night that she would have a check for the matching amount dropped off Tuesday.

“We are ready to move forward to be set for September,” she said. “We’ll be happy to provide the overall checks from the organization.”

Redevelopment Authority Director Tim Sheehan said that, technically, NEON is not eligible for an extension because it has not drawn down half of the money allotted to it.

Councilman Warren Peña, who has been at odds with Stephenson and NEON in his position as chairman of the South Norwalk Community Center board of directors, took a stern tone regarding the extension.

“This is the first time that in the city’s history that we’ve given out an extension to any entity, never mind that it’s NEON,” he said. “ … I want to make sure we hold these folks to a strict schedule, make sure it is complied with.”

The exact terms of the extension will be worded in a council meeting, council members said.


2 responses to “Norwalk council gives NEON a break, and an extension”

  1. LWitherspoon

    $42,000 sounds like a lot for bathroom improvements. What does that entail?
    Should Mr. Pena recuse himself due to his role at SNCC, which has put him at odds with NEON?

  2. M Allen

    Of course Mr. Pena should absolutely recuse himself from any council-related business dealing with NEON in any capacity. Although his issues with NEON on behalf of the SNCC may be entirely legitimate, he has made it stikingly clear that he has a personal conflict of interest due to his role at the SNCC.

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