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City Council Passes Land Bank, 19A Programs

Anthony Dolce, R-Ward 2 and City Council president, is pictured speaking during Monday’s meeting. P-J photo by Timothy Frudd

After months of discussion and debate, the City Council approved resolutions to fund a Land Bank proposal and the 19A Homeownership program during Monday night’s City Council voting session.

The City Council allocated $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for the Land Bank’s Post-Pandemic Housing initiative. City Councilman Jeff Russell, R-At Large, was the only council member to vote against the resolution for the city to contract with the Land Bank for demolition and rehabilitation programs.

“I know there were some concerns about administrative fees, but even if we had done it in-house, it still would have cost us and we would have had to hire people to administer that program, City Council President Anthony Dolce, R-Ward II, said.

Dolce explained that while the City Council had discussed whether the best option was to contract with the Land Bank for demolition or to administer demolition in-house, the city would have to pay administration fees no matter what in order to successfully oversee the demolition process.

“I know there was some discussion as to whether we should allocate the money to the Land Bank or should we try to do it in-house,” he said. “The problem with doing it in-house is you have to probably hire more staff, so in the long run, it’s going to cost you more.”

With the cost of demolitions currently between $20,000 and $30,000 per property, Dolce said the funding will not go nearly as far as local residents anticipate. Nevertheless, Dolce said the $1 million in ARPA funding for the Land Bank over the next four years will make a “good dent” in the list of properties requiring demolition throughout the city. Dolce added that the funding will also contribute to various homeowner and rehabilitation programs over the next four years.

Dolce echoed previous statements from Director of Development Crystal Surdyk, explaining that part of the Land Bank’s “mission” is to perform demolition services and remove blighted properties to improve local neighborhoods. He also emphasized that the $1 million allocated for the Land Bank’s Post-Pandemic Housing initiative will be used specifically for the benefit of the Jamestown community.

“That money has to all be spent in the city of Jamestown,” Dolce said. “Even though the Land Bank is county-wide, that money specifically that’s being allocated by Jamestown will be spent on Jamestown rehabilitation and Jamestown demolition.”

The City Council also passed a resolution providing funding for a permanent 19A Homeownership program. The resolution, which was tabled multiple times over the past few months, received support from City Council members earlier this month after city officials agreed to a reduction in requested ARPA funding for the program.

While the initial proposal from the city administration requested $750,000, the City Council approved a $500,000 allocation from the diminishing ARPA funding Monday night.

Following Monday’s voting session, Dolce told The Post-Journal the proposal involved extensive discussions by City Council members.

“It had been reduced, so I think it was to the point where the council felt comfortable,” he said. “It’s more like a pilot program. We’ll see how it goes, so we spent a little bit less on that.”

In addition to the Land Bank and 19A Homeownership programs, the City Council also allocated $500,000 more for the Senior Citizen Home Improvement Incentive program.

The City Council allocated the $250,000 that was originally proposed for the 19A Homeownership program, as well as an additional $250,000 in ARPA funding to bring the full allotment of the Senior Citizen Home Improvement Incentive program to $1.5 million.

The Senior Citizen Home Improvement Incentive program has been a top priority for Dolce, especially with the popularity of the program with local residents.

“The big thing that was near and dear to my heart, which I pushed really hard for, was the allocation for senior home improvement,” he said. “We put it back up to the maximum of the $1.5 million. I was happy to see that passed tonight.”

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