Municipalities in the county submit federal fund requests for roof upgrades

Town of Virgil office building. (Photo Source: Timothy A. Bennett/Owner & Publisher of The Cortland Voice).

The Cortland County Finance and Administration Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to fund up to 90 percent of two municipal projects with American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds that would help cover roof repairs for the Village of Marathon and Town of Virgil offices.

The funding would amount to close to $105,000 to cover both projects, according to Republican Legislator Mitchell Eccleston, LD-17. Funding for Marathon would come down to about $42,000, while funding for Virgil would amount to approximately $63,000.

Village of Marathon side building. (Photo Source: Timothy A. Bennett/Owner & Publisher of The Cortland Voice).

John Kaminski, Town of Virgil supervisor, spoke at the meeting.

“Every little bit helps,” he said. “We have had to deal with mold mitigation because of the leaking roof, so we had to deal with that plus the repairs. We are just looking to see if we can get some help. If not, we’ll figure it out and we’ll go our merry way.”

In Marathon, Legislative Majority Leader George Wagner (R-LD-15) said the roof of the village offices is leaking. The project will be a total roof replacement, according to a project quote provided by the county.

Approving both projects presented a new issue for the county.

“My only question is, what do we do with all the applications we had that came in after the deadline? Because they are basically the same as these two,” County administrator Rob Corpora said.

Wagner responded, noting he would like to make the rest of the ARP funds available to applications that had been submitted prior, but not considered. 

Although Legislators did not come to a conclusion on how the rest of the funds will be disbursed, if at all, the move signifies a departure from the county’s more austere stance on using ARP funds. At the County’s last Federal Aid Allocation Citizen’s Advisory Committee, before it was dissolved, legislators said they wanted to keep a portion of funds on hold in order to figure out how to spend them on broadband or other infrastructure projects.

Prior to this request by Virgil and Marathon, Corpora said the county had $711,000 available in ARP funds. 

“(When we voted to keep the ARP funds on hold) I also added ‘(they will be on hold for broadband or infrastructure) or until something better comes along,’” Wagner said. “It is going to cost $20 million to jump into broadband. If we wait, the price has got to go down.

Wagner said he is banking on federal and state grants to significantly lower the cost of the broadband project.

“Right now, the ARP process we went through, we went through it too fast,” he said. “We had $9.2 million at the start, we blinked, and we were down to $711,000. Our towns and villages have needs. I was encouraged that the sales tax for the county is going up, but it is not nearly enough to cover the things municipalities have been putting off due to a lack of funds.”

Part of the discussion also veered into potentially reopening the Federal Aid Allocation Citizen’s Advisory Committee.

“The committee will not be reformed. It was voted on and these requests will stay with the Finance and Administration (committee),” Legislative chair Kevin Fitch (R-LD-8) said.

ARP funds need to be appropriated by 2024 and spent by 2026, according to federal stipulations. 

“I would truly like to not see us spend these last $711,000. We have two more years to decide,” said legislator Linda Jones (R-LD-9). “You want to give everybody what they want, but can we at least keep that for maybe the county's emergency. It is a dilemma.”