POTSDAM A leader of a regional economic development council said some uncommitted state funds could be used to improve, expand or repair the north countrys housing and its aging water, sewer, energy and transportation systems.
Anthony G. Collins, co-chairman of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, said the group would actively seek new projects to fund because it was named a top performer.
A lot of projects that wouldnt have been funded are moving forward, he said. Were one of two teams with an unblemished record.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomos recent funding announcement means an additional $90.2 million for the region. Mr. Collins said the council would use some of that money to address calls for more housing and infrastructure spending.
Cleverly, weve identified a way of helping some projects tied to economic development, he said. When youve got a competitive funding process, youre going to get creative proposals.
Out of the $90.2 million, only $37.6 million has been designated among 78 specific projects across the region, including the $5.4 million rehabilitation of a Watertown apartment building and the $2 million construction of a mixed-use development in Carthage. The remaining $52.6 million is divided into four funds and can be distributed at the economic development councils discretion. That money includes a $2.5 million municipal water and wastewater infrsatructure support fund, and a $1 million community renewal fund.
The council is determining which projects will be funded and might revive some that were overlooked in the past, Mr. Collins said.
Were remembering the projects in our region. If they dont get funded, we dont forget them, he said. If anyone has what they think is a transformational project, please come forward.
John R. MacArthur, a senior engineer with Beardsley Design Associates, Auburn, suggested the council turn its eyes to the pending collapse of the building at 395 Main St., Malone.
It could have a devastating impact on the village of Malone, he said. It is very likely the building will collapse in the next year or two.
The building is adjacent to the Main Street Bridge over the Salmon River, which carries Route 11. Mr. MacArthur said the buildings collapse could damage or destroy the bridge.
We have some great infrastructure, but also a legacy of old and abandoned buildings no one knows what to do with, he said. This building is a poster child for that problem.
Mr. Collins acknowledged the issue, but stopped short of prescribing a solution.
This is a big-deal problem for our region, he said.
The council gives priority to projects that have the best potential to deliver economic benefit, Mr. Collins said.
I go right to the bottom line, he said. Were looking to create jobs. To us the nature of the project doesnt matter, but an investment should have a return.
Mr. Collins said the councils choices would fit in with a larger plan to boost regional tourism, promote sustainable development and connect underserved areas with high speed Internet.
At the meeting, the council endorsed a Franklin County proposal to levy a 5 percent occupancy tax on hotel rooms and vacation rentals and to use the revenue for tourism marketing.
In the coming months, Mr. Collins and other council members will take their plan on the road throughout the region.
I am getting ready to visit each of the counties to get public input as we have in years before, he said. Mr. Collins anticipated work would begin soon on another package of economic development projects, since Mr. Cuomo sought a third round of funding in his executive budget proposal.
Until a budget is passed, were not sure what next years competition will be, he said.