Now it’s a waiting game.
At the commissioners’ working session on Monday afternoon, city officials called on the commissioners to allocate $ 500,000 of their $ 7.5 million in US bailout funding to a boat ramp project. to downtown water and riverside redevelopment.
The commissioners were receptive, but unable even to schedule a vote on the issue until they had further guidance from the US Department of the Treasury regarding ARP funding.
City officials said they have been in contact with Congressman Glenn Thompson’s office and Senator Bob Casey’s office to help provide some of that guidance.
The concrete boat launch is the focal point of the proposal and would be located at the foot of Liberty Street on the north side of the river. The preliminary cost estimate is $ 2 million.
City engineer Chad Yurisic said the most common question he received about the project was why it would be so expensive.
“Access roads will need to be built… the roadway in front of the parking lot will need to be improved… Clark Street itself will need to be improved… parking space for these vehicles and trailers will be needed… lighting… green space…” he said, among other requirements.
Commissioner Jeff Eggleston noted that the project is not a boat launch. “This is a riparian redevelopment project”, said Eggleston. “When you look at this map, there’s a huge change in use that’s going to happen. “
The city representatives were Yurisic, City Manager Nancy Freenock, Planning Director Vince DeJoy, Public Works Manager Mike Holtz, Mayor Maurice Cashman, Council Member John Wortman and Council Member Phil Gilbert.
Warren County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Dave Sherman and Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Jim Decker also attended the meeting in support of the project.
Commissioners discussed the proposal and posed questions to city presenters.
Yurisic responded to a question about the location of the proposal. He said the outside turn to the spot presented an ideal condition for a launch. Inside bends collect sediment, he said, while outside bends see “scour” and deeper water.
The location is as close as possible to the Town of Warren Fire Department, reducing response times for river rescues.
The location is also close to the center of the downtown business district and should be more of a boon to the area’s economy than a launch in another location would be.
The city’s current launch is at the Warren General Hospital Helipad. “Proper access to motorboats in the city will eliminate conflicts … at Warren General Hospital” Yurisic said.
Eggleston raised a concern about parking. “This entire area is completely crowded most nights,” he said.
City officials said the Clark Street Garage is available for parking, free, evenings and weekends.
Gilbert suggested that if the garage is to be used this way, the city should make it clear to both visitors and residents.
The city did not have new detailed economic analyzes of the project, but some estimates were available.
“The Allegheny River which runs through downtown Warren is our most precious natural asset”, DeJoy said. “This will have a positive and significant effect that will ripple through the economy of the Town of Warren, County of Warren and the Pennsylvania Wilds as a whole.”
“We fully support the mixed-use launch and complete redevelopment of the Breeze Point Landing waterfront to the confluence with Conewango Creek as well as the improvements to the parking areas along Clark Street,” Decker said. “Improvements in these areas will significantly improve the appeal of visitors and residents to the downtown area as a whole. “
Municipal authorities have estimated a “conservative” annual impact of approximately $ 470,000.
Commissioner Tricia Durbin wanted to make sure the county got value for its money with its ARP dollars. She said she was considering broadband internet projects for part of the funding and wanted to see long-term benefits.
“Commissioner Durbin, you are absolutely right” said Wortman. “The money we are going to receive from the federal government must be invested in long-term projects.
“If you spend $ 500,000 on this boat launch and it lasts 50 years, that’s $ 10,000 per year for a project that 10,000 people use per year.” he said. “This is an incredible opportunity for the county and the city to come together. “
The city approved an expenditure of $ 500,000 for the project. It also obtained $ 1 million in funding from the Redevelopment Assistance Program (RACP).
The city’s $ 500,000 would apply to an individual matching requirement. The city requested more dollars through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Department of Community and Economic Development. If one or both of these grants are awarded, they could not be used to match RACP funds. Freenock said state funds cannot be used to match state funds.