Syracuse lawmakers OK spending $23M in stimulus money on home loans, water pipes, fire tower

Syracuse, NY – The Syracuse Common Council today approved the spending of more than $ 23 million in federal stimulus funds on a handful of programs and infrastructure improvements proposed by Mayor Ben Walsh.

That includes $ 4 million for small businesses, $ 7 million for home purchases and repairs, $ 10 million for new water infrastructure, and $ 2 million for a seven-story tower to train firefighters for rescue of high-rise buildings.

In total, the council has now approved approximately $ 40 million of the $ 123 million Syracuse received from the American Rescue Plan Act. Walsh outlined a comprehensive plan for all the money in early June, and his proposals began working their way through the legislative process last month.

The $ 23 million approved at the council meeting on Monday is most of the stimulus money approved so far.

Homeowner money is spent in the form of grants and low-interest loans for income-earning homeowners. It aims to make it easier for people with low and middle incomes to access finance for repairs or home improvement.

There is also $ 500,000 available for graduation aid for first-time home buyers who meet income restrictions.

The money is managed by Home HeadQuarters.

The small business loans are available to companies with fewer than 50 employees. The loans are administered by the Syracuse Economic Development Corporation.

The Council approved this point by 5 votes to 0. Councilor Michael Greene abstained as he is a member of the SEDCO board of directors.

The other agenda items were each unanimously adopted with 6 to 0 votes.

Councilors Khalid Bey, Ronnie White and Latoya Allen were absent from Monday’s meeting. Bey is ending a 14-day quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19.

Bey had postponed the small business loan program at the last council meeting as council members wondered how it would work and who would get the money.

Councilor Pat Hogan brought the items up in Bey’s absence on Monday.

The money for the water department includes $ 4 million to extend the intake pipe on Lake Skaneateles into deeper water to make the supply more resilient to the lake’s turbidity.

In recent meetings, Councilor Greene questioned the necessity of the fire department training tower and why it would cost so much.

Fire chief Michael Monds originally proposed the tower for around one million US dollars more than a year ago. He said the price skyrocketed last week due to increased material and labor costs.

Monds said the department’s existing five-story training tower does not meet the standards required for national certifications. He said building a new tower was cheaper than trying to expand the existing one.

“We need this ability for the city we’re protecting,” he said last week.

The steel tower is being built at the department’s training center at 312 State Fair Blvd.

The city plans to rent the tower to other departments who want to use it for training, Monds said.

City councils did not vote on Monday on Walsh’s proposal to spend $ 1 million on a rent reduction program for people who make up 100% of the median income in the area.

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