WATERTOWN — The City Council has a list of 10 projects that they’d like to fund with nearly $23 million the city received from the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that the city learned in March it would be receiving.
But the city must first get the word that the money can definitely be used for those kinds of projects. City Manager Kenneth A. Mix said Monday night he’s still waiting to hear from the U.S. Treasury Department about the regulations regarding how the $22.95 million can be spent.
Council members are looking at such transformative projects as a Thompson Park amphitheater, projects that can be done at Zoo New York in the park, a splash pad at the North Elementary School and installing a turf field at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
The council also informally agreed to put aside about $3 million for water and sewer priority projects.
Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said the city should pursue projects that “would be transformative for decades” that have been talked about for years but the city didn’t have the money to ever complete — until now that the city is receiving the so-called American Rescue Plan funding.
“And now we have the opportunity to do them,” he said.
Mr. Mix told council members that the city needs to start arranging for engineering firms to retain now because he expects the firms will be busy with other communities completing COVID Relief projects.
The list of projects the City Council might consider are:
— Thompson Park Amphitheater. For years, the city has talked about creating a permanent facility for the July 4th concert and other performances. The city also plans to apply for federal Department of Defense funding for that project;
— Thompson Park Trails and Landscape Restoration. In recent years, there have been efforts to clear out unused parts of the park to add to its hiking and biking trail system;
— Thompson Park Old Bathhouse and Ice Surface. The bathhouse has sat unused for several years with the hopes of turning it into a spot to warm up during winter activities and creating an outdoor skating rink;
— Zoo Improvements. Zoo New York officials have put together a master plan that includes several projects;
— Street Paving. The city paves several roads every year and could put as much as $4.5 million over the next three years;
— New DPW Facility. The city is looking at replacing its antiquated Department of Parks facility but that is considered as expensive and costs about half of the $23 million alone;
— Fairgrounds Artificial Turf Field. The city would like to install the turf field at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds for the Red and Black football team and increase the number of other sporting events;
— Northside Slash Pad. The splash pad would replace a pool at the North Elementary School that’s in need of major repairs. The spray ground would cost about $500,000 to $600,000;
— Waterman Drive Westerly Extension. A $4.5 million project that’s been talked about for years. The road extension would help alleviate traffic on Arsenal Street;
— Sewall’s Island to Marble Street Park Trail. The city has some conceptual ideas to connect the city’s trail system with Sewall’s Island.
The city also could use funding for needed improvements to the city’s fiber-optic lines, including the Northside Fiber Loop, which could cost around $150,000.
Council members were a little surprised about the amount of money that the city was getting from the COVID relief bill. The city is an entitlement community through the Community Development Block Grant program, so it was awarded much more than other communities.
According to the first indication, the money can be used for water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. It can also be used to assist with negative impact on economic development caused by the pandemic on households, small businesses and nonprofits, assist with impacted industry, travel, tourism and hospitality and pay for employment for essential workers.
North country localities will receive more than $100 million in federal funding contained in the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill. The city of Ogdensburg, the tri-county region’s only other city, will receive $1.14 million in federal funding.