CARS HOMES JOBS

Funding sought for Amsterdam land bank effort

Official: Time to show ‘we are in the game’

Friday, February 14, 2014
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— Volunteers gutted the kitchen and bathroom, trimmed 20 years of overgrown landscaping and carried out 15 tons of rubbish from the Julia Street home that serves as Amsterdam’s first foray into the land bank concept.

But after missing out on state funding last year, the city faces an important decision with implications on the local effort’s success.

Despite sweat equity members of the city’s land bank committee and other volunteers poured into the home, officials say there’s another critical element needed to demonstrate the program is worth state funding: a contribution of cash from the city.

Finding ways to get as much as $60,000 in funding for the land bank is on the agenda for a Common Council meeting Tuesday.

Work accomplished on the Fourth Ward home has been done with the help of volunteer labor and donations from Home Depot and Liberty Enterprises, land bank advisory committee Chairman Robert Purtell said.

But putting dollars toward the project is the next step that could demonstrate to the state that “we are in the game,” Purtell said.

It wasn’t difficult to find community members willing to show their support. Purtell said that’s “a strong point about Amsterdam.”

“The people of Amsterdam are volunteers and lend a helping hand when it’s needed,” Purtell said.

But finding money is another quest altogether in the city that didn’t earmark any for the program in its $27 million budget.

“It’s just bad timing,” Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler said.

The weather has wreaked havoc on the city’s infrastructure, and broken pipes are presenting a more immediate need for the city’s contingency funds, she said.

Hatzenbuhler said she believes the city must “put skin in the game” to gain the attention of state officials who may distribute a new round of money toward the effort to rebuild neighborhoods in the state.

It would show great interest, she said, if the committee got 35 Julia St. up for sale by June.

City Controller Matthew Agresta on Friday said he was still piecing together possibilities. He said it’s possible the city could free up an initial $15,000 to support transferring the property’s title, for insurance, and repairs.

He said he was crunching numbers to see if the city could get four installments together by the summer, but it might have to wait until the city’s new budget year that begins July 1.

Mayor Ann Thane said she is hopeful the city can muster up funding.

“If we show local investment, we set ourselves up in a better position,” Thane said.

The Common Council scheduled a Committee of the Whole meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18.

 
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