The city of Williamsport has budgeted $5.35 million of $25.4 million in US bailout funds for economic development.
The largest portion of the budgeted funds is $2.7 million for the Redevelopment Authority, $2 million for the Land Bank Authority, and $650,000 in combined future projects, earmarked funds, and foresight.
The budget is only a framework and not a final approval.
Meanwhile, August “To jump” Memmi, executive director of the city’s community and economic development department, said it will be up to Mayor Derek Slaughter, his administration and the city council to determine how best to spend the funds.
UHY Advisors was recently hired to oversee compliance and oversight of ARPA funds and expenditures. The city has until the end of 2024 to allocate projects and 2026 to spend them.
Memmi said it will be the decision of management and council, but redevelopment and investment in the land bank is a way to take derelict properties – including residential, commercial and industrial – and have them acquired or into the hands of certified developers to reuse and put back into business and tax rolls.
Council Chairman Adam Yoder recently said that using ARPA for land bank and property redevelopment would pay dividends and help close the gap with investment income that offsets the deficit spending that the city experienced each year during the fall fiscal season.
Memmi also noted how the Land Preserve, if and when funded, will be able to provide the capital needed to transform the future redevelopment plan for the Park Avenue neighborhood and the city’s residential, commercial and industrial properties. .
Funding from redevelopment and land bank authorities could be used as the city pursues a strategic plan with partners on Park Avenue, along the Maynard Street Corridor and property developers Wisteria Land.
The city wants to create an atmosphere where people want to visit, shop and spend money. He wants to reinvest in neighborhoods to create better living environments and space for new housing or repurpose existing housing, he said.
These were funds that were distributed by the US Treasury to cities and communities that were impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. These effects persist and the intention is to spend the funds wisely on projects that otherwise could never be realized.
The $800,000 budget recommendation for two ball diamonds at Brandon Park, for example, should pay huge dividends to the city’s economy as teams are brought back to play Little League games in 2023.
Spending on long-term Grafius Run flood mitigation solutions, with engineers designing ponds and underground retention areas to reduce the volume of the watercourse during floods and reduce the risk of flooding, harbors enormous potential.
Not only does this reduce the risk for residents who have endured flooding for years, but it encourages brokerage firms to sell and buy homes. It says part of Williamsport is safe from flooding and prime real estate to consider moving to and raising a family.
Really, all of the funding – whether it’s going to public works and the seawall and Grafius Run, the baseball diamonds at Brandon Park, police radios, CCTV and body cameras, street lights and what is put in a reserve account is tied to economic development, says Memmi.