Northern Border Regional Commission announces $11 million to go to NNY communities
Essex and Clinton counties included, not Franklin County
The Northern Border Regional Commission is set to bring about $11 million to upstate New York, a major increase in funding from the federal and state partnership dedicated to economic development in rural, economically stressed counties along the northeast border.
Established in 2008, the NBRC has invested about $28 million in upstate New York over its lifetime, funding projects like water and sewer connection projects, establishing conservation easements, creating job development programs, helping to renovate, expand or repair assets deemed important to the local community like pools, ski clubs and historic districts, and creating cultural assets like museums.
On Wednesday, Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, both Democrats of New York, announced that they had confirmed that $11 million will be coming to upstate New York.
No money was announced for Franklin County. NBRC officials said only two letters of interest were received from the county, out of just over 90 submitted overall. Of that, only one letter was invited to apply, and officials did not promote that application as a preferred project in this year’s announcement. Details on that application were not made public by the NBRC.
Funds will go to places like Lewis County’s Hand in Hand Early Childhood Center in Lowville, which will receive $2.9 million to renovate their building, add two classrooms and 24 new child care slots, as well as two new satellite facilities in the north and the south of Lewis County to provide space for another 32 students each.
“This is amazing news for us and we are so thankful to Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, our state representatives as well as our local Lewis County representatives for all their support with this project,” said Hand in Hand Early Childhood Center’s executive director Jennifer Bleakley. “Hand in Hand Early Childhood Center and Lewis County saw a need in our small community and now we will be able to act on that need and work towards solving the childcare crisis in Lewis County.”
She added that the new classrooms and satellite centers will mean more jobs in Lewis County as well.
The Development Authority of the North Country will receive $2.45 million to build out its telecommunications network in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties, bringing high-speed internet to over 480 households in rural communities across the three counties with over 63.3 miles of new fiber-optic cabling.
“The Development Authority has worked with its Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis County partners to identify gaps in broadband coverage and ways to address them,” said Carl E. Farone, Jr., executive director for DANC. “Senator Schumer has been a champion of expanding broadband access and this NBRC grant is a great example of what we can achieve by working together. We look forward to working with our partners to implement this grant to the benefit of unserved north country households.”
The town of Henderson in Jefferson County will receive $1 million to construct a wastewater treatment and collection system to connect the many town residents who still rely on septic systems or cesspools. “The town of Henderson is currently developing a $25 million sewer project to protect one of New York state’s largest fresh water sources, and every bit of funding is critical,” said Henderson town supervisor Ed Glaser. “This project will not only enhance fresh water protection efforts, but it will also help the towns economy by keeping businesses open and adding employment opportunities in areas where businesses have closed.”
The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority will receive $1 million to construct its own 15,000 square foot childcare center, offering daycare, preschool and other childcare services in Ogdensburg.
“This substantial support underscores our shared commitment to nurturing quality childcare services and will undoubtedly shape a brighter future for the children of our community,” said Steve Lawrence, OBPA executive director.
Canton-Potsdam Hospital will receive $500,000 to construct 16 training exam rooms, a new conference space and office space for its rural family medicine program, which intends on bringing residents to the hospital to offer more services and train in the facility.
The Clayton Improvement Association will also receive $500,000 to rehabilitate a vacant, 9,200-square foot mixed-use building in LaFargeville, which will host two new commercial spaces, two renovated commercial spaces and four residential apartments.
Overall, $8.35 million of the $11 million announcement is coming to Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties this year.
A number of projects for Essex, Herkimer, Cayuga, Clinton, Hamilton, Warren and Washington Counties were announced Wednesday as well, including investments in workforce development programs, loan programs for economic development run by local agencies, downtown revitalization efforts and water and sewer projects.
Schumer said he was proud to see his efforts in the Senate to pass the bipartisan infrastructure law last year is now bearing fruit for upstate New York. In last years bipartisan infrastructure law, the Senators saw the inclusion of a historic $150 million for the NBRC over the course of the next few years, meaning the commission is expected to continue distributing a significant amount of money in years to come.
“I am proud to deliver this major, nearly $11 million, job-creating, quality of life-boosting federal investment to expand childcare, boost public health, strengthen our infrastructure, increase access to high speed internet and help upstate New York’s economy grow,” he said. “I fought to deliver historic increases for the NBRC because I knew that would deliver unprecedented funding for communities across New York, and now communities from Watertown to Plattsburgh are reaping the rewards.”
Gillibrand said she has long seen the value of supporting the NBRC, and this historically-large distribution of funding will help advance the commission’s mission even further than it has moved over the last decade-and-a-half.
“This historic funding will help communities across upstate rebuild their infrastructure, provide critical job training in in-demand fields, and revitalize our tourism industry,” she said.
Both Gillibrand and Schumer said this is just the beginning, and they intend on continuing the push to support and expand the value of the commission. The Senators in February introduced a bill that would reauthorize the commission for another ten years, increasing its annual funding pattern and target funding towards specific issues like childcare, housing projects, combating the opioid crisis and building climate-resilient infrastructure. That bill, which has the support of Republicans, Democrats and the two independent Senators representing Vermont and Maine who are also in the NBRC, was referred to committee when introduced and has not advanced yet.
On Wednesday afternoon, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik said she was happy to see the commission continuing its work. The House version of the bill is being carried by Stefanik, introduced in June, and also bears bipartisan support from a number of members who represent communities covered by the commission. That bill has also not moved out of committee.