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Potsdam village spending on waterfront revitalization project sparks concern


POTSDAM — Village Trustee Eleanor F. Hopke is worried about the village’s plan to spend $250,000 to lead a waterfront revitalization project, and sparred with Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis over the issue Monday afternoon.

Village officials passed a resolution Monday that will commit them to the price tag in general fund revenue and in-kind services to meet the village’s local share of project costs.

“I’d like to say that I think the riverwalk plan is a great project for the village. It’s an investment in our future,” Mr. Yurgartis said. “I think we have to be willing to take a chance that we’re going to face some matching money, and we’ll find it and make a long-term investment in the village. ... If by chance the grant comes through and we’re facing a substantial match, we can go to secondary funding sources and look for that match. ... Think of it this way — if we win this, then we’re bringing in $250,000 to the village.”

“At a cost of $250,000. I mean, come on, Steve,” Ms. Hopke said.

“As I just said, there are other possibilities like in-kind services, secondary funding sources we can look at to try to reduce the amount of match. So rather than saying no to something — this is just an application for funding. Let’s at least take a chance and see what happens. If we don’t take any chances, we’re not going to be able to move this village forward with some of these big projects,” Mr. Yurgartis said.

The village will submit an application for funding through the 2014 state Consolidated Funding Application round on behalf of the Raquette River Blueway Corridor. Additionally, the group will act as lead agency for the application and resulting projects.

That work includes “corridor-wide projects related to marketing, public access enhancement/waterfront revitalization projects in the village of Norwood, the village of Potsdam, the town of Colton, the town of Piercefield, the village of Tupper Lake and the town of Long Lake.”

Each of the participating communities will be responsible for meeting its individual local matching fund requirements.

“The village of Potsdam’s portion of this regional effort would include the development of the downtown riverwalk. What we’re looking at with the riverwalk is applying for the same project with two separate state funding sources,” village Planning and Development Director Frederick J. Hanss said. “With the NYS local waterfront revitalization program, one of the requirements is that localities provide a match for up to 50 percent of both project costs.”

Mr. Hanss said the grant application isn’t due until June 16, but this week was the last time he would have to approach the board for authorization.

“We need to be able to show that the village is committed to providing its 50 percent share. We’ll have to work out what that’s going to look like in cash in-kind,” he said.

“I can understand that it would be very nice to have a loop for people to take a hike or a bike ride,” Ms. Hopke said. “But at the same time, all we have to look at is a line on a map at this point. I don’t think it’s really fleshed out well enough to make a decision on what we want to do. We’re talking about $250,000 for this and most of it is sidewalks that we already have in place. That’s a lot of money.”

Ms. Hopke said she also was concerned because of the village’s recent track record with projects going over budget.

“I know that there’s 30 percent extra written into this, but I’m skittish given our past experience with having to come up with more when the actual time comes,” she said. “If we were in a situation where we still had millions of dollars in the capital fund then I would be much more favorably inclined, but we don’t have that. ... I’m just nervous and I really can’t commit that kind of money.”

Trustee Stephen J. Warr asked Mr. Hanss if the village would still be committed to its payment if the grant funding did not turn out favorably.

Mr. Hanss said that the village would have the ability to return the funds.

“At some point in time before you submit the application, you will have a better feel for what is actually going to be in kind and what’s going to be cash,” Mr. Warr said. “If we don’t like the mix putting in the grant then we have that option before you submit that, right?”

“The other thing that I think you should bear in mind is that we can always apply for secondary grant sources,” Mr. Hanss said.

“I think Eleanor and I share the same concerns. Do we have an out clause?” Mr. Warr asked.

“Yes.” Mr. Hanss answered.

The board passed the resolution 3-1. Ms. Hopke voted against the measure while Trustee Ruth F. Garner abstained.

Mrs. Garner tried to bring the matter to a vote earlier in the meeting, but Mr. Yurgartis felt the topic deserved more discussion.

“Any reason for abstaining, Ruth?” Mr. Yurgartis asked.

“Was there a reason that I couldn’t call the vote?” Mrs. Garner responded.

“Yes, because you’re not running the meeting,” Mr. Yurgartis said.

“Well, you’ve changed the rules midterm, so I don’t know really what’s going on. Any member of this board can call a question. I hope that’s noted in the minutes,” Mrs. Garner said.

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