City Council gets reworked plan to spend Johnstown pandemic relief money | News

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JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — A new draft proposal on how to spend the more than $30 million in US bailout law funds for the city of Johnstown was presented for consideration by the city council during a a workshop on Wednesday.

The new draft, presented by Deputy City Manager Alex Ashcom, contained major changes from the original version outlined in October.

Finalized U.S. Treasury Department guidelines for the use of COVID-19 pandemic relief money now allow for a standard $10 million deduction for lost earnings that can be paid into a fund general, so the new proposal included $10 million in this fund, compared to $750,000 in the original.

A line item of $500,000 was added for the Lateral Assistance Program to help homeowners bring their systems into compliance with state-mandated remediation work. New levels of $500,000 each have been established for home repair and purchase programs.

“Under those three points, we have created a new budget from this for the council to consider, which captures the $10 million as a standard deduction, allows funding for the sewer lateral program through (the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority) and adjusts some line items accordingly. “, said Ashcom.

The provisional breakdown is as follows:

• $10 million: loss of revenue

• $8 million – Main Street Green Streets Project

• $3,250,000 – stormwater repairs

• $2,024,065 – State-of-the-art Sargent Stadium

• $1.5 million – food and child care

• $1.5 million – contingencies

• $1,050,000 – community projects

• $1 million: businesses and non-profit organizations

• $500,000 – parks

• $500,000 – home repairs

• $500,000 – home purchases

• $500,000 – sewer connection assistance program

• $400,000 – Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center

• $135,000: Broadband Internet

The $1.5 million emergency category was for “expanding successful projects or other emerging issues in the city that (the American Rescue Plan Act) could fund,” according to Ashcom.

Chief Financial Officer Bob Ritter supports keeping a sizable amount of money in reserve, especially since the city will no longer be able to levy an increased local utility tax, which brings in about $900,000. additional per year, after leaving Pennsylvania’s Law 47 program to fund struggling municipalities.

“For about 20 years the city hasn’t had the money to maintain anything,” Ritter said. “Just look at the (Frank J. Pasquerilla) conference center, with the (repairs) we are facing. There was no money to improve it, fix it or refurbish it. Just consider this.

Council members were hesitant about parts of the proposal.

There were previously allocations of $2 million each for assistance to small businesses and nonprofits, nonprofit projects, childcare and food, the home repair program and home purchase program. All have been reduced in the administration’s new draft.

“I think, while I understand where everyone is coming from, for us – and I’m just speaking for myself and it seems like I’m echoing what everyone is saying – I think we don’t want to see these big funding cuts that are for people, for businesses, for people trying to get by or people who want to own a home,” said Deputy Mayor Michael Capriotti.

Capriotti pointed out, “Let’s be honest, this was designed to help businesses and people who were struggling post COVID, and we are one of them. I understand. But we are not the only part of it. »

Councilman Ricky Britt said the concern should be “for the people of Johnstown.”

Councilor Marie Mock opposed the 75% reduction in the amounts for home ownership and home repairs.

“I’m not too happy that it was (cut) because that’s what we tried to use that money to build our neighborhoods,” Mock said.

Councilman Chuck Arnone wants more money allocated to the program designed to help landowners pay for sewer work, even though the city is no longer directly responsible for meeting state mandates after selling the municipal system to the Greater Johnstown Water Authority.

“$500,000 is a drop in the ocean,” Arnone said. “It’s not even enough to help. Hey, look, we sold the sewer system, but we need to put other things in place, and that’s gonna be a bigger deal in another year. … We know it’s going to get worse.

“The DEP does not play games. We have to show good efforts in our part that we tried to help these people, we try to make things right. We know we’re going to have to ask for an extension. I can tell you this, because there is simply no physical way for everyone to get these contracts with the time remaining.

Any plan to spend the money will ultimately have to receive city council approval. No date has yet been set for a final vote.

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