Watertown has too many projects, not enough money to pay for them
WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Forty-five projects have been approved for Watertown’s use of American Rescue Plan Act funding, federal money received during the pandemic.
The proposed budget adds another 12 projects, meaning there are 57 projects in all.
Add up the costs, and there’s not enough money to do them all. The city is short $2.6 million.
“Right now, we’ve got projects with higher costs than we have ARPA funds coming in,” said City Manager Ken Mix.
Mix says if council were to take the 12 projects proposed out, it would shave $1.2 million off that $2.6 million number. Some of those include a new roof at the library and a golf cart storage building at the golf course.
Mix also suggests council could not do a sidewalk project. That’s $2 million.
He says more than $3 million set aside for Thompson Park improvements haven’t been earmarked for any specific projects.
Council Member Sarah Compo Pierce and Mayor Jeff Smith say they’d like to see the focus on infrastructure.
“We have quite a bit of money in there for Thompson Park. I would rather see maybe some of that money being taken away and put toward addressing those critical infrastructure needs,” said Compo Pierce.
“We should really be focusing on infrastructure and catching up on projects we just haven’t had over the years to do,” said Smith.
Council Member Cliff Olney says there should be a balance of recreation and infrastructure.
“Big part of the money is being spent on it. Three-quarters of it. Only a quarter is being used on recreational activities,” he said.
Council Member Lisa Ruggiero says with Mix’s recommendations, which would leave about a $300,000 gap, all the proposed projects could get done.
“It’s just a matter of what project should fall under the $300,000 mark that could be bonded for or could be taken out of the fund balance. We have $20 million in the fund balance,” she said.
Council Member Patrick Hickey agrees with Mix’s analysis, and wants to dive more into the sidewalk project in the coming years.
A work session is scheduled for June 12 at city hall, where city council will discuss which ARPA projects will get cut.
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