As a year of the unexpected comes to a close, Rome Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo gave a glimpse of how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the Copper City; what remained the same, and what may change.
In a statement, Izzo said, “Despite all the challenges presented by COVID, we are most proud of the fact that our city remains in a strong position for growth. Phase one of AirCity Lofts (on Griffiss) opened for residents on November 15 with residents moving in everyday, commercial spaces being readied for occupancy early next year, and foundations in place for phase two of the mixed use development.”
She continued, “The Orgill Distribution Center broke ground earlier this year and is on track to hire 225 people as the facility comes on line later in 2021. The Dewitt Clinton Apartments opened in June in South Rome and is fully occupied bringing much needed new, modern housing to South Rome and the downtown area.”
In additional developments that were continued despite 2020 economic setbacks and shutdowns, she added that the Downtown Revitalization Initiative is moving along with new businesses opening and restoration projects taking shape.
Further, “Innovare, an open collaborative campus brings together Rome Lab’s scientists and technicians with business and academia, located in Building 100 at the Griffiss Business and Technology Park and has had two successful international quantum computing/small business development events,” the mayor stated.
In reflection, Izzo continued, “COVID forced us to alter the way we conduct day to day business as a city government shifting to telework, implementing social distancing practices throughout our many, diversified departments and dealing with staffing issues as the virus has taken greater hold of our geographic area in the last several weeks. We have found our employees to be extremely resilient and are very proud that with all these new restrictions imposed upon us that we have not missed a beat in providing services to our residents and moving our community forward with new business ventures.”
“Looking toward the New Year, we hope to build upon the successes I just mentioned as well as entertain new housing and economic development projects. The miracle of a COVID vaccine just ten months into an international pandemic shows us eventually we will have a light at the end of the tunnel to achieve immunity, putting us squarely on a path to return to a more routine business and entertainment environment where a true sense of community will again prevail.
“In the short term, it is incumbent upon all of us to drive our virus positivity rate down utilizing masks in public spaces, social distancing and handwashing.
“While the city was able to pass a budget with no property tax increase for 2021, Rome, like other municipalities, is still keeping an eye on state aid availability going into the future.
“The major unknown factor heading into 2021 continues to be the fate of New York State Aid In Municipalities (AIM) funding,” Izzo said in a statement, continuing that so far, “20% of AIM payments has been withheld by the state.”
In her 2021 budget message, Izzo noted that permanent reductions of AIM funding would have negative ramifications, not only for the City of Rome, but all municipal governments. “The governor has proposed delaying the state budget until April, so we will closely monitor the budget negotiations for any permanent reductions of AIM funding,” she said.