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Watertown readying for plethora of projects funded by city’s share of American Rescue Plan Act

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WATERTOWN — The city plans to invest $22.3 million funded by the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act to correct lingering infrastructure issues and to improve quality of life by improving city parks and the zoo.

City staff have identified 47 projects, some of which are long overdue, and others that could never have been considered without the unexpected federal funding.

Councilman Patrick J. Hickey said he’s not surprised by any of the projects already approved, or by those proposed in the next city budget.

“There’s a tremendous amount of work, no doubt about it,” he said.

The American Rescue Plan Act, also known as the COVID-19 stimulus plan, included the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. Congress allocated $350 billion to state, local and tribal governments. New York municipalities were allocated $6.81 billion. Local governments received funds in two tranches, beginning in May 2021 with the balance to be delivered about a year later. Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties and all the cities, towns and villages collectively will receive $92.8 million, with Watertown’s portion the largest.

Initially, funding uses could include assisting households, small businesses and nonprofits; aiding the tourism, travel and hospitality industries; supporting essential workers with premium pay or by providing grants to eligible employers of essential workers; covering pandemic-induced revenue losses; and investing in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

The Treasury’s final rule on the program, issued in January, broadened the scope of each type of eligible use and expanded the set of households and businesses presumed to be impacted by the pandemic. It also clarified that funds can be used for capital expenses that back an eligible public health or economic project.

Governments can use funds for general services up to how much revenue was lost due to the pandemic. That loss can either be a standard $10 million total or a calculated loss based on the Treasury’s formula that compares revenue to the full fiscal year prior to January 2020.

Watertown received $11,340,703 in the first tranche, and in August the City Council allocated the funds to 25 projects to be carried out this year, following the initial rule focusing on water and sewer.

Of those projects, 12 are water main replacements. They collectively add up to 20,102 feet, or 3.8 miles of new steel pipe to be installed.

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