Only a dozen people attended a meeting to find out how city officials will spend $ 28 million in federal funding.
On Thursday, the City of Jamestown hosted its first public contribution session at Jefferson Middle School, with six people asking questions about the plan.
Doug Champ, a city resident and former city employee, asked if some of the funding could be used to lower the tax rate. Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist said the city was allowed to use part of the funding for projects that could normally be funded through budget spending. So the money could be used to reduce taxes if this is the spending plan approved by Jamestown City Council.
“I expect it to be used to reduce taxes”, Sundquist said.
Ellen Ditonto, president of the Jamestown Zoning Council and candidate for Jamestown City Council, said the funding should be used for several improvement projects such as the demolition of old abandoned factories and the creation of ready-to-move sites. . She also said the plan includes the allocation of $ 1.4 million to improve housing, which she says is not enough.
“We need to focus more on neighborhoods and invest more than $ 1.4 million there”, she said.
Ditonto also suggested the city should partner with other municipalities receiving federal stimulus funding to find a project manager to track funding used for multiple towns and villages instead of the city hiring just one person. to track Jamestown’s funding.
City resident Pete Morgante said the money should be used to attract a satellite campus of a four-year college. He said that this way the region might not lose manufacturers like Truck-Lite, which moved from Falconer to Erie, Pa., To be closer to potential college graduate employees.
Mary Maxwell, neighborhood project manager for Jamestown Renaissance Corp., asked if any of the funding was allowed to fund demolitions. Sundquist said that, under current federal guidelines, the funding cannot be used for demolitions, but can be used for structural and cosmetic issues.
Earlier this month, Sundquist presented the plan to the board during its working session. He said the city will receive $ 28,079,145 in stimulus funds over a two-year period, with the first payment of more than $ 14 million allocated in May.
Sundquist said the city has until 2024 to commit the money to projects, with the use of all funds to be completed by 2026 or returned to Uncle Sam. There are five categories that will serve as basis for how stimulus funds can be spent: economic development; Loss of income; housing and mental health funds; water, sewer and broadband projects; and transparency and monitoring of recovery funds.
In the current state of the plan, $ 10 million will be spent on economic development and loss of income; $ 5 million will go to water, sewer and broadband projects; $ 2 million for housing and mental health funds; and $ 900,000 for transparency and monitoring of recovery funds.
The federal government’s classification for lost income allows the city to recalculate lost income at the end of each year throughout the program, Sundquist said. He said conservative estimates allowed the city 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 for projects or general services.
“It is the broadest category”, Sundquist explained how the city will have more flexibility in how the lost revenue funding can be spent.
Examples of project ideas for which the lost funds could be used are the creation of a playground, which could also be an outdoor skating rink in winter; a BMX pumping track; a dog park at Bergman Park; a frisbee golf course; and hiking and cycling trails. The funding could also be used for the redesign of West Third Street following the reduction of the “Oaks of the cathedral” Last year. In addition, the funding could be used for much-needed renovations to the fire station.
Sundquist said funding for the economic development category will be administered by the Jamestown Local Development Corp. He said the funding could go to projects like the Chadakoin River Basin Project, which could lead to the installation of in-water docks near the Comedy Center Park, the National Comedy Center and the Public Services Board. of Jamestown. He added that city officials are working with the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency and the Gebbie Foundation on expanding the river basin behind the comedy center.
Sundquist said the money could also be used to create a new fund that would be similar to funding downtown programming, which helps local attractions host larger events in the city.
For the housing and mental health category, Sundquist said $ 600,000 will be used to work with local mental health agencies to have people on call during police calls and emergency services. These positions would work directly in and with the police department to coordinate a response when needed.
The remainder of the $ 1.4 million funding will go to the city by investing directly in housing rehabilitation programs by working with local housing organizations.
Sundquist said city officials would wait to use the stimulus funding for the water, sewer and broadband category, as national officials informed city officials that a major infrastructure bill could be adopted by the US Congress in the near future. The mayor said it would be best to see what funding will come to the city or be available for the infrastructure bill’s water, sewer and broadband projects passed by federal lawmakers before spending the money. stimulus financing.
As for the $ 900,000 for transparency and tracking, Sundquist said that this funding will be used to hire two new employees – a project manager and a communications coordinator. He said the posts would not be permanent and would no longer be funded once the stimulus funds were allocated.
There will be three more public consultation sessions on the plan: Saturday at 10 a.m. at the James Prendergast Library, Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Chautauqua Center and Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Emmanuel Baptist Church.
The plan is available to the public on the city’s website at jamestownny.gov.