January 20, 2022

Making sure the money counts

With guidelines still pending, Cortland mulls uses for $1M in aid

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Cars travel past Floral Avenue in Cortland on Wednesday. Fixing sidewalks, creating a dog park and expanding broaband internet access were some ideas the Cortland Common Council discussed this week on how to spend the $1 million the city is set to recieve this year as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

Members of the Cortland Common Council still await detailed guidelines for how they can spend the $1 million the city will receive in 2021 and 2022 but shared ideas Tuesday of potential uses including fixing sidewalks and creating a dog park.

The $2.05 million total the city expects to receive was announced in March as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

Alderwoman Kathryn Silliman (D22 nd Ward) said her constituents would like to see money be used to create a dog park or improve sidewalks.

Additionally, she said the city could buy house paint that people could use to paint their houses throughout the city.

Silliman said painting can be a good way to improve house conditions but paint can be expensive, which can be a hardship for people financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“That’s exorbitant for people who are coming out of COVID,” she said.

More well-kept homes would also encourage pride of place for city residents, Silliman said.

Alderman Bruce Tytler (D23rd Ward) said he’s still looking to expand affordable broadband throughout the city — which he first brought up during the discussion about the money at the April 6 Common Council meeting — and was open to improving sidewalks as well.

Tytler said that he didn’t want the money to be used for salaries of city employees.

“This is an opportunity to use this money for some things we haven’t been able to do in the past and now maybe we can,” he said. “If we use it for salaries, I think that would be a huge mistake.”

Alderman Tom Michales (R8th Ward) agreed, saying the money originates from the taxpayers and should be for their benefit.

Guidelines for what the money specifically can be used for are expected within the next two weeks, said Mack Cook, the city director of finance and administration.

The first payment is supposed to arrive no later than 60 days after the signing of the act, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The act was signed into effect by President Joe Biden on March 12.

Alderwoman Kat McCarthy (D-1st Ward) said she would like to see the money spent on projects the city has put off and Police Chief Paul Sandy said the money could be useful for license plate readers, which usually cost about $20,000 each.

Sandy also said more surveillance cameras could be put on Main Street as work goes on to redevelop it with the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative project.

“We’ll continue speaking with department heads for areas and concerns regarding the money,” Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin said.

The city had previously discussed potential uses at the April 6 meeting, including new sidewalks, expanding broadband internet access and purchasing body cameras for Cortland Police Department officers.