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ARPA funding provides city with sustainability

Thomas Caputo
Staff writer
Posted 3/15/23

On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law, providing the country with financial relief to address the economic problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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ARPA funding provides city with sustainability


UTICA — On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law, providing the country with financial relief to address the economic problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the $1.9 trillion from the economic stimulus bill, over $45 billion was allocated to cities across the country, with over $60 million being allocated to Utica.

With a total of $60,881,737, city officials have allocated Utica’s ARPA funding to over 50 projects in different sectors across the city, including:

  • Police — $5,343,115 (body-worn cameras and tasers, $1.5 million; gun violence prevention, $2.5 million; facility maintenance, $75,000; career management program, $250,000; public facility repair, $1 million);
  • Fire — $2,831,885 (fire truck, $1 million; exhaust systems, $275,000; fire truck refurbishments, $550,000; Station 1 overage, $275,000; career management program, $250,000; public facility repair, $481,885);
  • Parks — $21,375,000 (Roscoe Conkling Park, $7.8 million; Liberty Bell Park, $75,000; new playground equipment, $150,000; splash pad installation, $850,000; dog park construction, $600,000; Phase 1 Chancellor Apartments, $1.9 million; skatepark, $2 million; Harbor Point soccer field, $3.9 million; F.T. Proctor Park restroom and pavilion, $650,000; ADA compliance for city parks, $1.4 million; Bertolini Clubhouse, $2 million);
  • Public Works — $10,345,061 (Additional street paving, $4 million; snowplow equipment, $1.2 million; Dudley Avenue sewer project, $700,000; Varick Street neighborhood streetscapes, $1.6 million; discretionary spending for six city councilors’ districts, $1.2 million; and brownfield remediation, $1.5 million;
  • Home and Community — $19,215,408 (Humane Society, $400,000; Lead and Heathy Homes, $1.4 million; Family Housing and Wellness Center, $1 million; Johnson Park Center, $900,000; child care expansion, $488,188; small business assistance, $500,000; Renaissance Center, $422,220; Utica Zoo, $2 million; Empower Center Youth Development, $300,000; Children’s Museum, $2 million; Young Scholars program, $50,000; On Point for College, $200,000; Olbiston Apartments, $3 million; Uptown Theater, $180,000; Westside Senior Center, $1 million; Artspace Utica, $1.1 million; housing needs assessment, $80,000; New James Street Market and Apartments, $500,000; and residential rehabilitation programs, $3.6 million); and
  • Miscellaneous — $1,771,268 (Legal/accounting fees, $40,000; COVID-19 healthcare and protection, $750,000; upgrades to city’s website and telephones, $100,000; reimbursement for hiring/FTE’s, $500,000; and unallocated, $381,268).

Due to the nature of inflation and supply chain issues, some project totals might change over time.

The process to fund new projects and reinvest in the city’s parks and public safety departments and decide where funds should be allocated to, following government guidelines, was a collaborative effort between Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, his administration and the community, officials said.

“It’s sustainability, it’s not a one and done and you use this money and you have nothing to show for it,” Palmieri explained. “What we’re looking for is bringing back and upgrading some of the amenities that people during COVID-19 said ‘you need to do a better job here.’”

Upon receiving the ARPA funds, the city was given a strict deadline to utilize all $60,881,737 by 2024. While there were many projects that would have qualified for ARPA funding that did not receive any, priority was given to projects and departments that took a hit during the pandemic and ones that would be able to financially contribute to the city over time.

“This funding is going to give us the ability over the next several decades to not only sustain the people we have here, but to also bring in other people throughout the region to come to the city and utilize our facilities and maximize expendable money they may have,” the mayor added.

The Utica Zoo, one of the many recipients of the city’s ARPA funding, was allocated $2 million to build a new welcome center. The welcome center will have spaces for education and community engagement programs, a retail center and family-style restrooms to accommodate guests. The zoo broke ground on the welcome center last July and is expecting to have it open by next month.

“It’s going to create a whole new sense of arrival and it’s going to create that ‘wow’ that the Utica Zoo needed when people were entering the front of the zoo and wondering in the past ‘where do we go?’ There will be no question now,” Utica Zoo Executive Director Andria Heath said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the zoo was closed for 107 days in 2020 during their peak season, suffering a significant financial loss. Heath believes the investment for the Utica Zoo’s welcome center will aid in increased revenue and will have a longterm benefit for both the zoo as well as the city.

“We’re so grateful to the city of Utica for choosing us as one of the beneficiaries of this federal funding,” Heath added. “We know that it’s going to be passed on to so many of our neighbors as well as people who are picking a great vacation or recreation time here in Utica. We feel that we’re now up to par to join some of our other esteemed attractions in the area so that we become part of a great package when people are looking for things to do.”

The Integrated Community Alternatives Network (ICAN) is another $2 million recipient of the city’s ARPA funding, which will be utilized to help build the organization’s Family Resource Center and the new Children’s Museum, slated to open by next year.

“Building our Family Resource Center and a brand new children’s museum is ICAN’s largest capital project in our history,” said Steven Bulger, executive director and CEO of ICAN. “The pandemic forced an early closure of the former museum, the shut down of some project partners, cancellation of fundraising opportunities and more — resulting in a 12-month delay overall. With the help of ARPA funding, the Family Resource Center is full of activity since ICAN staff moved in this past September, and the progress of the museum construction can excitedly be seen by all. We are now about a year away from opening this asset for our community.”


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