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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

River Agency grant applications jump as funding requested drops

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MASSENA - There are more applicants seeking funds from the River Valley Redevelopment Agency this year, but less money sought.

The RVRDA received $16 million in funding from the New York Power Authority in 2010 for economic development. Each year, the River Agency board and St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency’s Local Development Corporation review applications and award a portion of the funds.

In 2011, the RVRDA reviewed 27 applications seeking a total of $5 million in funding. Nine of the 27 projects were awarded $790,000, according to IDA CEO Patrick J. Kelly.

Those projects included a $160,000 grant to repair Waddington’s arena and recreation center, $100,000 for the village of Gouverneur to upgrade its water distribution systems, and a $250,000 short-term loan to the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena to improve rail access at the Massena Industrial Park.

This year, the number of applications jumped by nearly 50 percent, to 41. Those applications are requesting approximately $2.9 million in assistance, a $2.1 million drop in funds from last year, Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Kelly did not have an explanation for the trend.

“I don’t know if two years is enough to establish a pattern,” he said. “The potential applicants might have thought smaller amounts are more likely to be funded ... It may just be random.”

Mr. Kelly was pleased the applicant pool had grown.

“You want to have as broad of a potential applicant pool as possible,” he said.

Andrew J. McMahon, who serves on the IDA LDC board, said some unusually high requests fueled the larger request total last year.

“There was one or two projects last year that skewed the average way up,” he said. “Ultimately, they were not funded.”

This year’s results may reflect a better understanding of what will and won’t be funded, Mr. McMahon said.

“Last year set expectations for everybody of what were desired projects,” Mr. McMahon said. “I think that drove the applications this year.”

BDC Executive Director Jason A. Clark said he applied for about as much in grants this year as last. The BDC is seeking $225,000 for streetscape and facade improvements downtown, $7,500 to help defray costs for the Mayor’s Automotive Coalition, $15,000 to assist with the distribution of a recently completed Massena Marketing video, $20,000 for the promotion of Interstate 98 and $10,000 to help Massena revise its recycling program.

The RVRDA looks for applicants to show they have leveraged other sources of funding as they are applying, Mr. Clark said.

“We try to leverage as many funding sources as possible,” Mr. Clark said. “We were consistent with what the were looking for.”

Mr. Kelly made a presentation to the village of Massena’s Board of Trustees this week about the mission and purpose of the agency. The River Agency will award this year’s monies by June.

“Our shared mission among all of the economic development entities county wide is to create and retain jobs and build the tax base,” Mr. Kelly said.

The River Agency continues to await a 20 megawatt allocation of low-cost hydropower for job creation. NYPA’s Board of Trustees recently scheduled a public hearing for May on that allocation. The board and Gov. Andrew M Cuomo could approve the hydropower after that hearing.

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