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August 27, 2013

Local projects awarded $3M in grants

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Nine projects in Otsego County, mostly in the town and city of Oneonta, have won state funding totaling almost $2 million, officials announced Monday. And in Schoharie County, five projects netted almost $1.2 million.

The grants in Otsego County are from the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal division are for housing, businesses and municipal infrastructure projects, a media release said, and they are the result of joint efforts by the county and city.

“I’m optimistic that these awards are harbingers of good things to come,” Mayor Dick Miller said.

All the project applications from the city were funded, Miller said, and the result was a welcomed success after the disappointments of rejected proposals in 2011 and 2012 in the state’s Consolidated Fund Application process.

The Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council, which includes Otsego and Schoharie counties and is among councils established by the governor, recently announced $8 million in awards. The area projects funded are:

• Wilber Park bathhouse restoration, $241,000;

• Catella Well No. 1 Pump House reconstruction and well expansion, $242,000;

• Latte Lounge expansion, $41,000;

• City housing acquisition and rehabilitation project, working with Housing Visions, $400,000;             

• Otsego County Micro-Enterprise Grants, including three downtown Oneonta projects, $200,000;

• Brooks’ House of Bar-B-Q bottling plant assistance, $100,000;

• Ioxus, manufacturer of ultracapacitors, assistance, $206,000.

• Custom Electronics assistance, $105,000; and

• Mobile homes rehabilitation project in Otsego County, $360,000.

In Schoharie County, projects and funding levels are:

• Town of Cobleskill, Three Johns/The Bulls Head Inn assistance, $100,000.

• Town of Cobleskill, Route 7 water and waste-water project, $500,000.

• Schoharie County housing rehabilitation program, $525,000.

• MyMobie assistance, $25,000.

• New England Calendar Inc. assistance, $25,000.

Miller said the city’s awards represent the most-successful effort in recent years. The Latte Lounge, Brooks, Ioxus, Custom Electronics and the Micro-Enterprise grants have “tremendous positive impact” on the Oneonta community’s economy, he said.

Oneonta City Manager Michael Long said the $400,000 award for the city’s housing acquisition and rehabilitation project, working with Housing Visions, will leverage $10 million in private investment targeted at improving Center City conditions. The project is among several initiatives resulting from the city’s Housing Summit and Task Force work, he said in the release.

“These winning projects will help generate new economic activity, improve our housing stock and enhance our infrastructure,” state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said in a prepared statement Monday. “These are the type of results I was hoping to realize when I convened Otsego County leaders for our first economic development summit last year.” 

The city’s bathhouse renovations and well-house improvements were needed, city officials said, and with state aid, less of the cost will be funded through city funds or bonding, thus reducing the burden on taxpayers.

Paperwork for implementing the grants will take four to six weeks, city officials said, and the projects may be visibly underway in three or more months. The city will seek bids on its infrastructure projects, officials said.

Kathleen Clark, Otsego County board chairwoman, commended county and city staff “whose tireless efforts’’ were instrumental in securing these grants.

“The process is an extremely competitive one,” Clark said in a prepared statement. “Our success can be attributed to the leadership of former Otsego County Economic Development Director Carolyn Lewis, as well as the diligent efforts of Interim Director Zondra Hart, Otsego County Director of Planning Karen Sullivan, City Manger Mike Long, City Housing Specialist Jeff House and Anthony Scalici, executive director of Otsego Rural Housing Association.”

Long said the awards were the result on a competitive process, but he acknowledged “full support” of the applications from Seward and Assemblyman Bill Magee.

Miller also attributed the city’s success since previously filed applications to city and county staff collectively doing “a more purposeful and effective job” of prioritizing projects, matching projects with possible funding sources and the hiring of a city manager. The result, he said, was “pretty gratifying and beneficial to the community.”