Watertown has more options for spending COVID relief money

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 4:18 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Part of the city’s $22.3 million from the American Rescue Plan can now be used on “government services.” More than $8 million of it.

“One of the most flexible is government services, but you can only spend up to the extent that you had lost revenue,” said Watertown City Manager Ken Mix.

According to the federal government, Watertown lost $8.3 million during the pandemic in 2020 - a much higher number than city officials anticipated. It gives the city more freedom on how to spend the money and it’s an opportunity for the city to use federal money on big projects instead of city taxpayer dollars.

Things that come to mind are: renovating city hall, or upgrading the city Department of Public Works facility. By using Washington’s money, city tax dollars can be saved for other projects.

Mix believes this could be one option to prepare Watertown for the end of its hydroelectric contract with National Grid, which brings in millions of dollars each year. It ends in 2030.

Meanwhile, city council members are thinking about improvements they’d like to see. Ryan Henry-Wilkinson hopes the city will pave roads and put down new sidewalks with the money.

“It might be good to get a bunch of those real little projects out of the way that we’ve always wanted to do if we had the money or move up the time-table on things we know we need to get done and just get them done,” he said.

Council member Lisa Ruggiero wants to save a city asset.

“I would be in favor, if I had enough support on council, to make the repairs to the Flynn pool,” she said.

However it’s spent, the city has time to think about it. The deadline to get projects done is December of 2026.

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