By ALISSA SCOTT
The Amsterdam Common Council Tuesday approved funding for the local Land Revitalization Corporation's rehabilitation of a blighted property on Julia Street.
The council approved four installments of $15,000 each to be transferred from various budget lines discovered by city controller Matthew Agresta and economic development director Robert von Hasseln.
"Most of the Common Council was saying we want to do it, it's a good idea, but we can't because of the finances," von Hasseln said. "So [Agresta and I] sat down and worked with them to find something they were comfortable with."
Von Hasseln was able to pull $2,000 from his economic development budget, and $2,000 from an armistice budget line.
He said the economic development line falls into the prospects of the land bank, but the armistice, which usually funds flags and memorials, was simply over-budgeted.
The remaining $11,000 was pulled from contingency. Ordinarily, that fund is used for emergencies, but it can also cover projects that weren't planned when the budget was prepared nearly a year ago.
"Matt did his homework and said, 'I'm comfortable with this as controller, with only so many months left in the fiscal year," von Hasseln said. "He said he doesn't feel we would have to scramble to find money if there's a major storm, or something blows up."
Von Hasseln said down the road, they may be able to take even more form contingency.
With the funding, the council will be able to officially move 35 Julia St. into the land bank. They initially couldn't, because they didn't have the funding to pay for insurance, maintenance or the deed transfer.
Originally, aldermen were not sure if they could fund the $60,000 project, and turned down the request last month. They cited "financial obscurity" of the city's bank accounts.
Crews started cleaning up 35 Julia St. last month, and did as much as they could with volunteers. They gutted the home and spruced up the landscaping, but they still have work to do inside, and need to market the property.
The funding will be repaid to the city, as the land bank profits from selling the properties.
Von Hasseln said the land bank doesn't keep the money, but recycles it to rehabilitate another property, or pay off the property's debt to the city.
Von Hasseln and Land Bank Advisory Committee Chairman Robert Purtell said allocating city funding was important because it makes Amsterdam eligible for additional state funding from the attorney general's office.
The attorney general's office distributes grants based on participation of the municipality.
"The reason we didn't get the last grant like some other places, like $1 million or $2 million, is because they didn't feel that we were prepared for what both Schenectady or Amsterdam bought into the situation," Purtell said. "I have talked to some people from the attorney general's office who have said that they really want to give us the money, but they have to have participation. They just don't want it to be a handout."
Recently, the city of Schenectady sold its first land bank property.
It sold a Strong Street home for $5,000 and the new owners reportedly plan to occupy the residence once it's renovated.
Von Hasseln said because Amsterdam committed $60,000, it looks much better to the attorney general' office.
"It's not just that we had everything organized, and all the t's crossed and the i's dotted, but the city of Amsterdam is actually invested in this," von Hasseln said.
Aldermen said they take the land bank into consideration when they start developing next year's budget.