Public Hears About City’s American Rescue Plan
Only about a dozen people attended a meeting to hear how city officials will spend $28 million in federal funding.
On Thursday, the city of Jamestown hosted its first public input session at Jefferson Middle School, with six people asking questions about the plan.
Doug Champ, city resident and former city employee, asked if any of the funding is allowed to be used to lower the tax rate. Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist said the city is allowed to use some of the funding toward projects that might normally be funded by budget expenditures, so this way the money could be used to lower taxes if that is the spending plan approved by the Jamestown City Council.
“I anticipate it being used to lower taxes,” Sundquist said.
Ellen Ditonto, Jamestown Zoning Board chairwoman and candidate for the Jamestown City Council, said the funding should be used toward several improvement projects like demolishing old abandoned factories and create shovel-ready sites. She also said the plan includes appropriating $1.4 million to improve housing, which she believes isn’t enough funding.
“We need to focus more on neighborhoods and investing more than $1.4 million in them,” she said.
Ditonto also suggested the city should partner with other municipalities receiving federal stimulus money to find a project manager to track funding being used for several cities, towns and villages instead of the city just hiring one person to track Jamestown’s funding.
Pete Morgante, city resident, said the money should go toward attracting a satellite campus of a four-year college. He said this way the area might not lose manufacturers like Truck-Lite, who moved from Falconer to Erie, Pa., to be closer to potential employees graduating from college.
Mary Maxwell, Jamestown Renaissance Corp. neighborhood project manager, asked if any of the funding is allowed to go toward demolitions. Sundquist said under the current federal guidance the funding cannot be used for demolitions, but can be used for structural and aesthetics issues.
Earlier this month, Sundquist presented the plan to the council during its work session meeting. He said the city will receive $28,079,145 in stimulus funding over a two-year period, with the first payment of more than $14 million being allocated in May.
Sundquist said the city has until 2024 to commit the money toward projects, with use of all funding needing to be completed by 2026 or it gets returned to Uncle Sam. There are five categories that will be the basis for how the stimulus funding can be spent: economic development; lost revenue; housing and mental health funds; water, sewer and broadband projects; and transparency and tracking of recovery funds.
As the plan stands today, $10 million will go toward economic development and lost revenue; $5 million will go toward water, sewer and broadband projects; $2 million toward housing and mental health funds; and $900,000 toward transparency and tracking of recovery funds.
The federal government’s classification for lost revenue allows the city to recalculate revenue loss at the end of each year throughout the program, Sundquist said. He said conservative estimates has the city being able to use $2.2 million for 2020; $2.6 million for 2021; $2.7 million for 2022; and $2.8 million for 2023.
Sundquist said the benefit of the lost revenue category is that city officials can use this funding toward projects or general services.
“It’s the broadest category,” Sundquist said about how the city will have more flexibility in how lost revenue funding can be spent.
Sample project ideas that lost revenue funding could go toward is the creation of a splash pad, which could also be an outdoor skating rink in the winter; a BMX pump track; a dog park at Bergman Park; a frisbee golf course; and walking and bike trails. Funding could also go toward the redesign of West Third Street following the cutting down of the “Cathedral Oak Trees” last year. Also, the funding could go toward much-needed fire station renovations.
Sundquist said economic development category funding will be administered by the Jamestown Local Development Corp. He said funding could go toward projects like the Chadakoin River basin project, which could lead to the installation of docks in the water near Comedy Center Park, the National Comedy Center and the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities. He added city officials are working with the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency and the Gebbie Foundation on the expansion of the river basin behind the comedy center.
Sundquist said money could also go toward the creation of a new fund that would be similar to the Funding for Downtown Programming, which assist local attractions with bringing larger events to the city.
For the housing and mental health category, Sundquist said $600,000 will go toward working with local mental health agencies to have people on call during police and emergency service calls. These positions would work directly in and with the police department to coordinate a response when needed.
The rest of the $1.4 million in funding will go toward the city making direct investment in housing rehabilitation programs by working with local housing organizations.
Sundquist said city officials will wait to use the stimulus funding for the water, sewer and broadband category because national representatives have informed city officials that a large infrastructure bill could be passed by the U.S. Congress in the near future. The mayor said it would be best to see what funding will be coming to the city or will be available for water, sewer and broadband projects from the infrastructure bill passed by federal lawmakers before spending any of the stimulus funding.
As for the $900,000 for transparency and tracking, Sundquist said this funding will go toward hiring two new employees – a project manager and a communications coordinator. He said the positions will not be permanent and would no longer be funded once the stimulus money has been allocated.
There will still be three more public input sessions on the plan: 10 a.m. Saturday at the James Prendergast Library, 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Chautauqua Center and 7 p.m. Thursday at Emmanuel Baptist Church.
The plan is available for the public to view on the city’s website at jamestownny.gov.