Rescue plan

Schenectady to Create Bailout Funds Committee; details yet to be determined – The Daily Gazette

SCHENECTADY — The city council agreed on Tuesday to create a citizens’ advisory committee to help decide how to allocate funds received under the American Rescue Plan Act, though details on how committee members would be selected are unclear. have not yet been determined.

Council members voted 6 to 1 in favor of establishing the committee in a mock vote at a meeting of the city’s development and planning committee. A formal resolution creating the committee is expected to be approved by the full board later this month.

It is unclear how many people would sit on the committee or how those people would be selected. Board members are expected to collate a list of names of interested participants and discuss the creation of guidelines in the coming weeks.

Councilman John Mootooveren, the council’s majority leader, has already begun the process by contacting Schenectady United Neighborhoods President Tom Carey to bring together interested participants from every neighborhood association in the city.

The fact that names had already been gathered before council officially voted to create the committee did not sit well with Councilor John Polimeni, who said he had no problem with public input regarding the money from ARPA, but disputed the fact. that other board members were working on setting up a committee before the board agreed to do so.

He pointed to an email that has been circulating among board members with a list of Carey’s committee members.

Polimeni was the only one to vote against the creation of the committee, a decision he said he made on principle.

“I have no problem with public participation and ARPA money – absolutely none,” he said. “However, that was decided before this meeting. … It’s just not good for any of us. I don’t care who you are, that’s just plain wrong.

Council President Marion Porterfield said the email was a miscommunication and noted that the names had been gathered following prior discussions to create a committee.

“A committee has not been determined,” she said. “Names have been submitted.”

The idea for a committee dates back to last year, when the city held a series of community meetings to seek feedback from residents on how to spend the $53 million in ARPA funding received under the Act of $1.9 trillion approved last year by Congress.

Residents have repeatedly called for a system to be put in place that would allow funded projects to be reviewed by the public.

To date, the city has received just over $26 million in funding, with an equal second tranche expected later this year.

Millions have already been allocated, including $8.9 million the city claimed in lost revenue and more than $4 million in this year’s operating budget to fill positions following a freeze on hires put in place by Mayor Gary McCarthy at the start of the pandemic.

Money was also allocated to the Boys & Girls Club and the city fire department to purchase new drugs. The city is also looking to spend up to $5.5 million of the funds to build a new Central Park pool, including $450,000 to hire an architectural firm to design the swimming facility, which is expected to be approved by the board later this month.

The city has just over $12 million remaining from its first round of funding, leaving a total of just over $38 million to spend.

The funds can be used to finance a number of infrastructure projects related to water, sewer and broadband; offering premium pay to essential workers; and help those affected by the pandemic.

An online application for organizations to apply for ARPA funding was open throughout December for funds received under the initial tranche. The application process will reopen once the city receives its remaining ARPA funds, McCarthy said.

More than 70 applications were received, requesting about $80 million in combined funding in the first round, according to Kristin Diotte, the city’s director of development.

Diotte said his department reviewed applications to determine if they are eligible for ARPA funding and worked to identify other sources of funding that might be better suited to each applicant, including development block grant funds. community or county or state administered program. level.

The city is also still waiting to hear how much it will receive from the recently passed federal infrastructure bill, which Diotte says could also help fund some of the projects.

Porterfield said the committee will only consider applications after they have been reviewed by the city, a number she expects to be well below 70.

“Once we have decided which applications will be considered, the committee will review the applications,” she said.

It is not known when the citizens’ committee will be created.

The city has until the end of 2024 to allocate its ARPA funds and must spend the money by the end of 2026. Unspent funds must be returned to the federal government.

Contact journalist Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.

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