Ogdensburg allocates another $17,500 in ARPA funds

·4 min read

Mar. 4—OGDENSBURG — The City of Ogdensburg will be disbursing another $17,500 in funds to a non-profit organization and several small businesses through funding it had received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help offset losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city had received a total of $535,177 in 2021 through ARPA, according to a resolution brought forth to the City Council Monday, that states "these funds are to be used to mitigate the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and to support communities and populations impacted by the pandemic."

In December, the City Council had allocated $131,000 to non-profit organizations and small businesses within the city. The city also decided to use $100,000 to offset lost revenues in 2020 and 2021.

The remaining balance, according to the resolution, is $307,177.

The City Council unanimously approved $5,000 to go to the Ogdensburg Zonta Club and $2,500 each to Body by Johnnie, Simplicity Salon and Hair Express and $5,000 to the Sherman Inn for a total of $17,500.

Johnnie Flynn, owner and operator of Body by Johnnie, said that the funds will be helpful.

"It was extremely helpful to be chosen for the ARPA grant. Thank you City of Ogdensburg for assisting my small business," said Flynn.

James E. Reagen, who owns the Sherman Inn along with his wife, Donna, took over the operation of the business on March 13, 2020, when the World Health Organization had just declared COVID-19 to be a worldwide pandemic and New York State shut down all non-essential business and non-essential travel.

He said it was difficult running a business, especially one that needs people traveling to be successful, during the pandemic.

"The lodging industry across St. Lawrence County, New York State and the United States plummeted to the worst depths seen since the Great Depression. That first month we had just three customers. The following month we had six. The third month it was a little better, but the Sherman Inn was still a money losing proposition, especially with winter heating bills that can run from $2,500 to $3,500 just for natural gas," said Reagen, "Over the past two years Donna and I have worked hard to turn around a failing business that could have become a deteriorating eyesore. Thanks to the support we have received from the Greater Ogdensburg community, we have built a thriving business and a great reputation. I am very proud that together we have saved a historic landmark."

Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly asked City Council to consider allocating more ARPA funds to the Seaway Festival to allow the group to offer more events at this summer's festival as well as to provide fireworks after the Lions Club Light up the Night Parade in November. It was decided that city staff would talk to the entities and develop an overall plan so funds could be allocated once, not multiple times.

In other business Monday:

n A resolution to transfer funds to balance the 2021 budget failed. Funds that were under budget would have been moved to lines that were over budget.

Voting for the resolution were Skelly, Deputy Mayor Steven M. Fisher and Councilor William B. Dillabough. Councilor Michael B. Powers and Councilor Daniel E. Skamperle voted no. Councilor John A. Rishe, who was taking part online, lost connection and was unable to vote. Councilor Nichole L. Kennedy was not in attendance.

The voted needed four affirmative votes.

Councilor Michael B. Powers voted no because he wanted to take a closer look at the amounts to be moved, compared to the actual 2021 budget amounts.

The failure of the resolution did not sit well with the mayor.

"That's amazing," said Skelly, "You should have just voted to balance it."

n City Manager Stephen P. Jellie said that they will be phasing in the opening up of City Hall to the public. Jellie said that City Hall would be open Monday through Thursday with Fridays still remaining closed to allow staff to properly clean the facility.

Attendance at City Council and other public meetings will also be updated. Half-occupancy and mask precautions will be implemented for those meetings for the month of March, according to Jellie.

n A resolution was approved seeking the endorsement and support of Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik for three grants totaling $1.4 million to assist the fire department through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The city had applied for three separate funding requests through FEMA.

The first, totaling $1,341,000 was through the Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. This would allow the city to hire up to five additional personnel in 2023.

Another $36,037 was sought through the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) grant that would allow the city to purchase additional turn-out gear, gear storage lockers and hazardous material metering devices to sample air quality at emergency incidents.

The last grant was through Fire Prevention & Safety (FP&S) grant for $25,000 that would allow the city to purchase a large amount of smoke detectors and public education literature.

Skelly was the lone vote against the resolution citing costs for paying for more firefighters in the future after the grant runs out.