Ogd city hall

Ogdensburg City Hall. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

OGDENSBURG — The Ogdensburg City Council approved a Downtown Revitalization Initiative application Monday night that had nine possible projects that would ultimately transform the city if it was to be chosen, according to Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly.

With a Wednesday deadline, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution to apply for up to $20 million in round five funding of the DRI program, which will invest $200 million into downtown neighborhoods across the state.

“This is an exciting time. I think we have a pretty good shot at this,” Mr. Skelly said. “This could be a turning point for Ogdensburg.”

A draft map listed nine possible projects that were included in the application. A Regional Recreational & Wellness Center and River Street Brewing Company are slated in the Marina District and Diamond site infrastructure, Diamond pier improvements, River Side Event Venue and Fort La Presentation French Cabins are at or near the former Diamond National site and Lighthouse Point.

On the eastern portion of the downtown area identified in the map is a project at the Frederic Remington Art Museum, a mixed-use development at 1 Franklin St., and EV charging stations and sustainability enhancements.

Andrea Smith, director of Planning & Development, said that if the city receives the DRI funding it could change or even add projects with state approval.

“This is not the comprehensive end-all list of projects,” she said.

Ms. Smith said that the city could hear by mid-to-late October whether they were successful. The regional commission in charge of selecting communities could choose two and award $10 million each or give $20 million to a single community.

Mr. Skelly said that if the city is successful, either award coupled with nearly $8 million in Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) funds, implemented by New York state in wake of massive flooding along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in 2019, could transform the city.

“Ogdensburg will be a different city when it’s done,” Mr. Skelly said.

In other business, the city council voted unanimously to move forward to hold a public hearing on Sept. 27 to discuss changing the city charter to cease collecting county property taxes as well as transferring other duties to St. Lawrence County such as the enforcement of unpaid delinquent taxes on behalf of the city and crediting the city for unpaid delinquent taxes.

“We can be relieved of this financial responsibility,” Mr. Skelly said. “It’s a big financial responsibility to do this.”

Councilors Daniel E. Skamperle and Michael B. Powers questioned the legality of moving the duties to the county.

City Manager Stephen P. Jellie directed them to a letter from Coughlin & Gerhart, LLP, that was sent to St. Lawrence County on behalf of the City of Ogdensburg, stating it would move forward with changing the city charter that would send duties to the county and outlined case law.

“All of our points are absolutely on firm ground,” the city manager said.

Councilor John Rishe called it an “antiquated policy.”

“It should have been changed years ago and I fully support it,” Mr. Rishe said.

The charter changes will not alter the date or terms for collecting city property tax which begins in April, while the county property taxes will be due in January and school tax collection dates will not change.

City residents will get three separate tax bills.

If approved, the changes would go into affect on Jan. 1, 2022.

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