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Non-Profits Should Not Get ARPA Funding

The City Council is considering giving 1.5 million dollars of the ARPA funding to non-profits, something I am very much against.

This ARPA money is meant to be spent on more important projects for the people of Jamestown. As of today, The council hasn’t even fully funded the $1.5 million they promised low-income senior citizens for home improvements. That should have been a priority from the beginning.

The opaque Gebbie Foundation is heading the grab for this $1.5 million. Months ago, Tom Benson, of NCC fame, came to the council asking for money for “The Zone”, which is a very expensive immersive pet project they are building. I believe it is being created, primarily, for tourists visiting the NCC. Mr. Benson also asked for money for the new YMCA. At the time he used scare tactics and told the council, and I am paraphrasing, they couldn’t possibly finish the YMCA without $2 million from the ARPA funding. When asked at that meeting, months ago, what would happen to the current massive YMCA building, he said Gebbie would “mothball” the building. A dubious plan at best. What happens after Gebbie gets tired of “mothballing” the building? Does the city get put on the hook to tear it down?

Fast forward several months to today. The other night at the council meeting the non-profits came back for a second bite at the apple. This time they sent the big guns — Greg Edwards. He is the head of Gebbie. Mr. Edwards once again asked for money for “The Zone” and the YMCA. The Zone is a high-tech playroom for kids. Mr. Edwards said the kids of Jamestown would have the experience of The Zone “for nothing”. The website says, “The Zone will help address this disparity by providing plenty of free and low-cost opportunities for families at all income levels.” We also should ask, do our kids need more interaction with computers for exercise? Take them to the park. I have a strong feeling, this is being built for tourists and being promoted as something for the people of Jamestown. At any rate, this project is not worthy of ARPA funding.

Next, we have the new YMCA project. A new YMCA would be great for the city. However, it shouldn’t be paid for with ARPA funding. When asked what would happen to the old YMCA building, Mr. Edward didn’t say it would be “mothballed” like Mr. Benson did. Mr. Edwards said, ‘there have been significant conversations” and “talks with private investors’ about turning the building into luxury condos! Mr. Benson told the council the building was so desirable to investors because it has such fantastic amenities! Think of it a pool! Gyms! This was the same building that 20 minutes earlier was obsolete. If there are “private investors” and “significant conversations” please let us hear from them, and know who they are, Mr. Edwards. You owe us that. Let’s not wait until after the vote to find out, these great investors may or may not exist. Let’s discuss seriously what happens with the old building. Is the council willing to do this? If not, they will be to blame when the old building languishes.

Neither of these non-profit projects should be given ARPA funding.

Tom Andolora is a Jamestown resident.

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