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City Council will consider $100,000 funding for zoo

in Animals/Local News 414 views

The City Council will take up a resolution on Monday night that provides enough money to allow Zoo New York to open for the season but does not give a commitment for the future.

Council members will be asked to appropriate $100,000 for the zoo in Thompson Park so it can open for this season in early May. Zoo officials had asked the city for a commitment of $375,000 each year for five years so it could weather a financial crisis that threatens the zoo’s future.

Councilman Robert O. Kimball supports the $100,000 in funding, contending that there are too many questions after discussing it with City Manager Eric F. Wagenaar.

“I think we don’t provide more money until other issues are addressed,” Kimball said.

The city needs to see if Jefferson County agrees to providing financial support to the zoo, he said. Zoo officials plan to ask the county for $375,000 for each of the next five years.

It has to be determined whether taxpayers would want tax increases to pay for the zoo, Kimball said. Council also must determine how much it would cost to close the zoo compared to keeping it opened, he added.

Before his discussion with Wagenaar, Kimball had been advocating to provide $100,000 in up-front funding, another $275,000 when a new agreement is reached with the zoo and $375,000 for each of the next two years.

Before talking to the city manager, Kimball presented his earlier proposal to Councilman Cliff G. Olney III.

So Olney said he was surprised — and disappointed — that the resolution that council members would vote on Monday contains only the $100,000 for the zoo. He wanted to know what changed after the two council members had talked.

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City holds off on decision for Zoo New York’s $375,000 funding request

in Local News 346 views

Zoo officials came away on Wednesday night without a commitment from the city for a proposed five-year $375,000 funding request to help make Zoo New York more financially stable.

The zoo temporarily closed in October after its operating board, the Thompson Park Conservancy, determined it could no longer stay open without making major changes.

In a March 5 memo to the City Council, the conservancy asked the city for a $375,000 commitment for the next five years that would “be enough for the zoo to thrive.”

The zoo also plans to seek that same amount from Jefferson County for a total of $750,000 for five years.

But council members on Wednesday night held off making that decision, saying that they needed to know what the county plans to do first.

“This will require some further analysis from this group,” Councilman Robert O. Kimball said, adding that he “personally supports” going forward with the $375,000 for one year.

Without the city’s guarantee on Wednesday night, interim zoo director Mark D. Irwin said after the meeting that the zoo doesn’t plan, at this time, to proceed to open on May 4 for the summer season.

Zoo officials need to move quickly to prepare for the opening.

The zoo will be open for the April 8 eclipse, but what happens after that will depend whether the city and the county agree on the funding request, Irwin said.

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State awards tens of millions in funding for water infrastructure work in north country

in Local News 386 views

Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul announced Tuesday tens of millions of dollars in state grant funding for water infrastructure projects across the north country, including more than $30 million in funding within Jefferson County alone.

The largest funding amounts — $5 million each — will be going to the towns of Cape Vincent, Hounsfield and Pamelia, as well the Development Authority of the North Country, with the town of Clayton receiving the nearly similar amount of $4.94 million and the village of Alexandria Bay getting $4.8 million.

The money is included in $479 million in grants statewide announced by the governor from the Environmental Bond Act and the latest round of the Water Infrastructure Improvement and Intermunicipal Grant Programs. Part of that money comes from the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022, which was passed by voters in a referendum.

The grants are awarded by the state’s Environmental Facilities Corp., in coordination with the state health and environmental conservation departments, and are part of the state’s commitment to modernize aging water and sewer systems, according to a statement from Hochul’s office.

In all, 156 water projects will receive funding in what the governor described as a “transformative” investment necessary to undertake water quality projects crucial to safeguarding public health, protecting the environment, bolstering communities’ climate readiness and promoting economic development.

“No one in New York should ever fear that they don’t have access to clean water,” Hochul said in a statement. “We are reassuring communities across New York that your kids, grandkids, and great grandkids will always have access to clean and safe water. This investment will make lifesaving improvements to our water infrastructure and safeguard drinking water for millions of people, in addition to saving New Yorkers money and creating tens of thousands of jobs.”

In Jefferson County, Alexandria Bay will use its funding for improvements to its wastewater treatment facilities. Cape Vincent will use the funding toward its Water District Number 7, while Clayton will use its award for a water main and intake replacement and Pamelia is also replacing a water main. DANC will use its $5 million for its first phase in replacing a water line that services Fort Drum. Hounsfield will use its funding in its Water Service Area Number 8.

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Zoo asks city of Watertown for more financial help

in Animals 342 views

The operators of Zoo New York are asking the city for $60,000 in more funding as the facility goes through financial troubles that could lead to the zoo’s permanent closure.

City Council will decide on Monday night whether to provide another $60,000 to help the zoo get through its current financial troubles.

Last week, two businesses offered the zoo a $60,000 loan. Developer Jake Johnson and the Reddick family, who owns Con Tech Building Systems came forward with their offer for the loan.

But the Thompson Park Conservancy, Inc., which runs Zoo New York, would not have to pay back the money to the city, Lawrence J. Sorel, the zoo’s executive director, said.

“This makes more financial sense,” he said, stressing he’s grateful for the offer from the two businessmen. “It would essentially be a grant from the city.”

Zoo officials have talked to Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith and council members about their funding request, he said.

Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero said Sunday that she’s leaning in favor of the funding request.

“I just have some questions,” she said.

The $60,000 would cover cash flow until a more permanent financing solution can be put in place if the zoo reopens next spring.

A resolution for the funding has been put on the agenda for Monday night’s council meeting.

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Consultant: Watertown will be ready to seek funding for water treatment plant project

in Local News 216 views

A consultant on Monday night guaranteed that the city will be ready to apply for funding later this year to help come up with a solution to reduce two disinfection byproducts that exceed acceptable levels at the Huntington Street water treatment plant.

During a work session on Monday night, consultant Kevin Castro, with GHD, Syracuse, pronounced that the city will be able to apply for a federal grant and two state grants as the company continues to work on a pilot program to resolve the issues with the two byproducts.

Mr. Castro provided a preliminary report on how the pilot program is going so far. The next set of numbers won’t be available until April.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said they will be needed so that the city can apply for a U.S. Department of Defense grant this summer.

“Because otherwise if we don’t, we are out another year and I don’t think we can kick the can down the road any further,” he said.

A third party other than GHD will have to prepare those numbers under the DOD grant requirements.

The project to resolve the issue will be expensive. Mayor Smith estimates it will exceed $15 million. The city and Mr. Castro refused Monday night to speculate further on its ultimate cost. Two Development Authority of the North Country officials urged the city to finally come up with a solution to the problem that first surfaced more than a decade ago.

The city is under a federal Environmental Protection Agency administrative order to fix the problems. DANC buys water from the city and provides it to Fort Drum and Pamelia.

DANC Executive Director Carl E. Farone and Carrie M. Tuttle, the authority’s chief operating officer, who were invited to attend the meeting, told city officials that they were worried that the city would not be ready to apply for the funds until 2024.

They brought with them an inch-thick report on the history of byproducts in the city’s water, dating back to 2006.

The city needs to meet Safe Drinking Water Act standards “not only for the city, but for Fort Drum and Pamelia,” Ms. Tuttle said.

The two byproducts are known as total trihalomethanes, or TTHM, and haloacetic acids, or HAA5. They are formed when chlorine or other disinfectants used to control microbial contaminants in drinking water react with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter, such as tree leaves, algae or other plants in surface water, according to the EPA.

The city water is drawn from the Black River.

Periodically, water customers receive postcards from the city notifying them of the two disinfection byproducts that exceed acceptable levels.

According to the notices, the situation is not an emergency.

The city has been working on the pilot program for several months. The pilot program will see if the plan works. Now in its second phase, the study will be completed this summer.

The tests replicate the plant’s filter beds and water filtering through a sand layer and an alternative carbon material being tested.

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Watertown airport receives millions in federal funds

in Local News 628 views

WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) – Watertown’s airport is getting close to $5 million from the federal government.

Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced Thursday that the Watertown International Airport will receive about $1.1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

And Schumer announced the airport is receiving about $4.7 million as its annual subsidy for American Airlines to continue flying there. It’s through the Essential Air Service program and funds 12 nonstop round-trip flights each week from Watertown to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Both awards come through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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