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JAMESTOWN – Jamestown’s Mayor is looking to cover a wide range of topics with the over $28 million the city received from Washington under the American Rescue Plan Act.
In partnership with the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, Mayor Eddie Sundquist held several listening sessions this summer, to gage public feedback about his proposed spending ideas.
“Some themes that we’ve heard over and over again, was more funding for mental health and more funding for neighborhood stabilization,” said Sundquist. “Being able to make repairs to homes, being able to remove blighted properties.
On that front, he plans to allocate funding for direct aid to some.
“Where the money can plug-and-play for programs that already exist to help with your homes,” Sundquist explained. “It is meant to be a grant, it is meant to give you the funding that you need, whether that is making a down payment to buy a house, or whether that is improving the roof, the structure, the painting.”
Additionally, some of the money could be used to hold landlords accountable, and in some cases, take ownership of structures that get out of control.
“I can tell you the five houses in my neighborhood that if I had bulldozed, or if I had repaired, would completely change what the neighborhood looks like,” said Sundquist, who is looking to develop what’s called a receivership program. “How does the city, work with partners, to collect the rents, make repairs to the homes, and then that landlord can have that property back.”
City leaders are already working to combat zombie houses by taking the owners to court.
In addition to housing programs, there will also be funding for improving public parks and investing in public safety; like investing in improvements for the city’s fire department.
Furthermore, $10 million will be allocated to help spur economic development. The mayor is also considering setting aside funding to improve internet access.
“We definitely could utilize some of that money to create a municipally funded network, to address the digital divide that continues to occur in the city,” explained Sundquist, who first proposed the idea back in 2019 while running for office. “What you’re looking at is a pretty extensive network, that is going to cost a lot, which is probably going to cost more than what we got in the American Rescue Plan Act.”
Sundquist is hopeful that President Biden’s Infrastructure Package will pave the way for additional funding as well.
“Right now, we’re just working on a feasibility study, to see what would that cost the city, does it work for what we currently have, and will our residents, will our businesses benefit,” Sundquist continued.
The mayor’s office sent out a survey a few months ago, to gage feedback from businesses. Sundquist says he was hoping to have more participation, however believes the feasibility study will stir up more excitement on the idea.
The city has until 2024 to allocate the funding to projects the municipality hopes to undertake. The mayor is going to present his final draft of the spending plan to lawmakers next month.
Those looking to learn more about his spending plan can log on to www.jamestownny.gov/rescueplan and review it for yourself.
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