City bonds for $1.2 million to start grant-funded projects

Additional improvements to the pedestrian bridge and a feasibility study on the relocation of Amsterdam’s train station where just two of the projects included in a $1.2 million bond resolution passed at last Tuesday’s common council meeting. Almost all, if not the entirety of the bond, will be reimbursed through various grants that the city has been recently awarded with. The council voted unanimously for the resolution and the mayor signed it later last week.

Projects specified in the resolution:

  • $650,000 for additional improvements and artwork on the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge

  • $285,000 to construct a new firing range for the Amsterdam Police Department

  • $160,000 to purchase new equipment and apparatus for the Amsterdam Fire Department

  • $93,500 to match a $115,000 grant received in December 2015 to conduct a feasibility study for moving the city’s train station to the downtown area.

The only amount that so far will not be reimbursed through grant money is the $93,500 for the train station feasibility study. However, Mayor Michael Villa said he is looking into the possibility of finding other grant money to cover that amount as well.

The $650,000 amount for the pedestrian bridge will be reimbursed with two grants, the first of which was a $325,000 amount awarded in December 2014 through the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council (MVREDC) initiative. The grant was originally intended to cover the cost to add the “Wheel of Life” design and other historical engravings and markers on the bridge. However, the grant required matching funds to be used, and in June 2015, the common council opted not to borrow funds to match the grant. Only days after that decision, the city received approximately $1 million in funding from the NY State Assembly to cover the costs of those projects. The city received another $325,000 grant from the New York State Department of Transportation in October 2015 which will serve as the matching amount for the first grant which will be re purposed for other improvements to the bridge project.

According to Villa, the final decision as to what the money will be used for has not been formally decided yet. However he mentioned bathroom facilities and two additional statues as some of the possibilities. He said that he will make the final decision based on recommendations from an ad-hoc committee that is still in the process of being formed. Villa said that Alderman Chad Majewski, Kelly E. Quist-Demars, constituent representative for Congressman Paul Tonko, and former mayor Ann Thane will be involved with the committee.

“It will all be based on the committee’s recommendations,” said Villa. “They’re going to put together a comprehensive team that researches any ideas that [former mayor Thane] had when she was involved with it, and also reaching out to artists around the area. So they’ll have different varying opinions and they’ll present us with what they think needs to go there.”

During the meeting, Alderman Ed Russo pointed out that the money spent on the feasibility study for the train station relocation doesn’t guarantee that the city will receive a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, which would be necessary to build the project.

Alderman Jim Martuscello replied, “But if you don’t – you deny the $93,000, you shouldn’t even apply for that grant. Because we have nothing to go by…we don’t even have the study of where it should go, how much it would cost, nothing…so why would they give us the grant if we don’t take that first initial step?”

Martuscello added later, ““If you don’t want the train station, or if you don’t perceive downtown going anywhere, then don’t vote for it,” said Martuscello.

“With all the money we’ve invested in our downtown, I think this is the next step that we need to take to continue the growth we’re seeing down there,” said Alderman Chad Majewski.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.