Council tables resolution to accept $ 12 million
A resolution calling for the acceptance of $ 12.07 million in grant funds for the coronavirus state and local fiscal adjustment was tabled by members of the Common Council at its regular meeting on Wednesday, calling for legislation to include a provision in which council members, who represent residents, have a say in how the remaining funds are spent.
The US Department of the Treasury has contacted the city with a grant in the amount of $ 12,067,211 for the coronavirus state and local tax recovery, with the funds being spent in accordance with the requirements of the 2021 US bailout that was enacted on March 11.
Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said Monday that the city must first determine its revenue losses during the pandemic before further funding can be allocated, according to the guidelines and recommendations of the American Rescue Plan.
The council largely agreed with the mayor, but several members said any other funding allocation should first be approved by the joint council, not just be determined by the administration.
“I think it’s great to get $ 12 million to offset some of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that Rome has suffered, which many municipalities across the country have. This has been a challenge for the city, which has done a number of things to try to alleviate some challenges, whether it be through work sharing or having employees working from home, and we have had to lay off temporarily or part time. employees. A lot has been done, but it is taking a toll on the city, so a grant will certainly help, ”said Ward 3 Councilor Kimberly Rogers.
The councilor said the mayor’s plans to “close the gap with funding would be the right thing to do”, however, “I think it’s really important that the city move forward with the remaining funds in a financial way. sound, for lack of a better term, and I haven’t seen any plans or heard of specific administration priorities for how this money will be spent. And if you look at the list of items in the 2021 US bailout, the number of things you can cover is pretty wide. “
Rogers said: “I think it would be beneficial for the residents of the community – obviously accepting the money and not denying $ 12 million – but there should be some transparency and dialogue on how the money will be spent. Here we will create an account, deposit and spend money according to the plan, but who is the priority? Will it be a water project, a sewer project, the recovery of the owners … There are so many things that are important, and I don’t think there has been a real dialogue on what could be done with the funding between the administration and the Common Council.
The councilor added that while council is “ultimately responsible” for the city’s budget and how that funding is allocated and spent, it should have the same authority over grant funding.
Fifth District Councilor Frank R. Anderson said the $ 12 million in grants to Rome was “good news, but this is only the beginning of the process. We have to make sure that the money received is well spent. We have a responsibility to the taxpayers of the city of Rome to be the watchdog for all funds entering and leaving the city.
Anderson said he hoped the mayor’s accounting for the city’s lost revenue during the pandemic was “well underway.”
“We need to know all of our losses so that we can determine if there is any extra money … There is water, sewage, staff, owners – there are a number of things to do. and I encourage full bookkeeping, but we need to do it as soon as possible, “he said.” We need to know the damage before we know how to ask for or spend the money … The $ 12 million isn’t just a blank check, and in the spirit of cooperation, we need to know exactly how this money is going to be spent. “
City Council Gerard Feeney said no one spoke to him before the council meeting and had no time to research, but council could not vote to accept the resolution as stated – simply accept the funding of $ 12 million. He said the council could propose an amendment to cite his powers to have authority over how funds are spent, but that approving the resolution as is would not be considered “legal or appropriate”.
Councilor Anderson asked if anyone was aware of a specific timeframe as to when council should accept the funding and city treasurer David C. Nolan said he did not know if he there was a deadline.
“I don’t know where we came from with the results of the pandemic, so we could be 4-6 months before we know the real impacts and even then we may not know. And then all the wheels will turn on how it would be spent and we can say, “That sounds like a great fundraising idea,” said Rogers. “They (the residents) want to know what the city will do with the money, so I agree that everything we do has to be legal, but it can’t be just the administration that decides where the difference goes.” . “
She said: “I am not saying that the administration would not spend this money on good priorities, but these people who are here today represent people who have priorities, therefore whose priorities are being respected and how to explain them. -you? … we should table it so we can insert wording for quarterly or public reporting, or maybe the administration already has a plan for the money. If they do, they haven’t shared it with me personally. We just want to know what that potential plan is. “
Councilor Anderson agreed that the proper action for Council was to table the resolution. Seventh Ward Councilor A. Robert Tracy asked what would happen if there was a deadline before the next Joint Council meeting to approve funding, and he was assured the Council could hold an emergency meeting. .
The resolution was then tabled unanimously.
Department of Public Works commissioner Butch Conover asked council to remove resolution 44 from the agenda, which would have allowed the mayor to apply for a grant from the Department of Environmental Conservation of 650 $ 000 to be used for an assessment of the Boyd Dam.
A resolution authorizing the assessor to require requests for certain tax exemptions relating to the 2021 tax roll and an order authorizing the City to approve the sale of 104 Lyndale Drive for $ 25,000 for the construction of a single-family home, were approved unanimously.
In other cases:
• The first ward councilor, John M. Sparace, called for the excessive opening of the town hall to the public.
“There is no reason why this place should not be open. It’s not very easy to do business, ”said Sparace. “Citizens are very frustrated that they have to pay our taxes through a window.”
He said city hall should be “friendly and inviting to our taxpayers, and it isn’t.” I understand there are stipulations, but don’t just open the lower floor. People should be able to move around this place. “
• The Rome Shines Awards were presented to homeowners by Advisor Rogers, which included a certificate, $ 25 ACE Hardware gift card and a lawn sign announcing their award. Joint Council President Stephanie Viscelli thanked Adirondack Bank and ACE, who “have always supported the city and we are very grateful”.
• David Halpin, vice-secretary of the Rome NAACP branch and vice-president of Lake Delta Kiwanis, was the first public speaker to speak at a board meeting since the COVID-19 shutdown in March 2020. He thanked the businesses in Rome for helping to support the Kiwanis.
• Councilor Anderson said he had the opportunity, along with other Councilors, to attend the unveiling of the Oneida Indian Nation sculpture on West Dominick Street on Tuesday.
“It’s absolutely beautiful and it was a beautiful ceremony,” said Anderson. “I would like to thank the representative of the Oneida Nation of India, Ray Halbritter, and those who spoke. It was nice to see the Nation working with the city of Rome. Sadly, these days we attack history – like Christopher Columbus – but this is history. A good thing about it is that we applaud the story and connect the fort to where the sculpture now stands, the Great Carrying Place. It’s nice to see us take a step forward. “
• Councilor Rogers said she mentioned at the last council meeting the issue of the closing down of senior citizen centers and spoke with the county office for aging the next day. Now the Copper City Community Connection is open and the South Rome Senior Center will open on June 4th. “We’ve talked about the impact of COVID on others, but sometimes we forget about people who are alone, who have no one to share a meal with,” Rogers said. “So I’m happy that our seniors can soon have social interactions.”