Council ‘retreat’ focuses on ARPA funding options | News, Sports, Jobs
Of the $14 million the city of Jamestown has already received through American Rescue Plan Act funding, only $12,600 has been spent.
On Wednesday, Jamestown City Council held a special business session “retreat” to continue discussing how to use federal stimulus money. Anthony Dolce, chairman of the board, said in their regular business meetings that the board did not have time to discuss in depth how ARPA funds should be spent. He said the retreat was an opportunity for board members to ask questions and raise concerns.
During the retreat, the board focused most of its discussions on ARPA’s economic development plan. City officials tentatively have $10 million of the $28 million earmarked for economic development.
Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist said ideas for the economic development plan’s programs came from roundtables with leaders from local manufacturers, restaurants, retailers and service providers.
In February, Crystal Surdyk, the city’s director of development, presented ARPA’s draft economic development plan to council.
“We are looking for direction on what you support,” she says. “Being able to give us a starting point is what we are looking for.”
One idea the council likes is the restaurant, retail and service program, to which it has already allocated $200,000. The program will encourage business owners to think outside the box and be creative in using their spaces to generate more revenue. Examples of how funds can be used would be to create outdoor dining space at restaurants, book entertainment, or host an industry-related seminar.
Another program the board likes is the Workforce Development Program, which tentatively has an allocation of $750,000. Dolce said the return on investment from this program will be realized by helping local manufacturers fill available positions.
The workforce development program will consist of work preparation for young people, both in and out of high school; paid and unpaid work experiences; coaching for students and businesses; and help with barriers to employment. The program will continue the work of establishing a pipeline of employees from high schools and trade schools to manufacturing industries, skilled trades and business administration.
An additional program the board appreciates is the General Contractors and Trades initiative, which tentatively has a $500,000 allocation. The council discussed the lack of contractors in the area. Surdyk said that for city projects, she plans contracts two years in advance.
The program will partner with local construction industry organizations to meet the most pressing needs of contractors and working capital for new workers. The objective of the program is to recruit young people into the trades as soon as they obtain their high school diploma by pursuing partnerships with schools and organizations specializing in the development of the workforce in the building trades. .
Another program discussed, but questioned whether it was necessary or not, is the creation of a business incubator. Marie Carrubba, Councilor for Ward 4, interviewed by an incubator already established in Fredonia, would the program be a duplication of what is already available.
At-Large Advisor Kimberly Ecklund also asked if the program was worth helping people start new businesses instead of providing financial assistance to established businesses. She said that if the new ventures were not successful, it would be a waste of resources and money. She added that the return on investment with ARPA funding must occur quickly when it takes several years to establish a sustainable business.
Sundquist said city officials visited incubators at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York at Fredonia and Olean. He said these incubators have all created jobs.
While discussing economic development programs, council also discussed the need to improve Jamestown’s housing stock. At-Large Councilman Jeff Russell said the $28 million the city received is not a gift from the federal government, but taxpayer money that should be used to help city residents. , which can be done by investing in the housing stock.
One of the programs under Healthy Communities and Neighborhoods, which has tentatively received $5 million from the federal stimulus package, is a roof and sewer lines to help homeowners with repairs. The board has decided to allocate $750,000 to this program.
After Monday’s council voting session, if all ARPA-related resolutions are approved, the council will have allocated more than $7 million of federal stimulus money to programs, new vehicles and equipment, and other initiatives to help the city recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.