Great Falls Visitor Center secures COVID funding
PATERSON – City council on Tuesday night gave Mayor Andre Sayegh half the money he needs to cover a $ 4 million gap in his $ 47.7 million Great Falls project, which will include a new reception center and a parking garage with 270 spaces.
Sayegh said he plans to make an announcement later this month regarding the remaining $ 2 million needed for an initiative he has touted as critical to Paterson’s revitalization efforts. The authorities are working to secure all different types of financing for the project so that construction can begin next spring and be completed on time to meet the crucial December 31, 2023 deadline.
The $ 2 million for the Great Falls project was one of four separate votes Tuesday night in which the council allocated $ 12 million of Paterson’s $ 63.7 million the federal government’s massive COVID-19 stimulus package.
The council also approved $ 7.5 million for road and sewer repairs along River Street, $ 2 million for pandemic hazard compensation for city workers and $ 500,000 for consultants to to help the city plan its use of US COVID bailout program money.
The council voted 8-0 in favor of funding the Great Falls project, despite several members voicing their opposition a week ago. The consulting contract was approved even though the council a month ago rejected the same contract at a higher price – $ 742,000.
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Several officials have said privately that the Sayegh administration secured council votes for the reception center and the counseling contract by agreeing to the plan to set aside money for the employee risk premium.
The resolution for the dangerous service premium passed 7-2, as supporters said the city should have acted much sooner to compensate its employees for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite Tuesday night’s decision to allocate $ 2 million for the approval of pandemic wages, officials admitted they did not know when the city would start passing the money to its employees or how much they would get. .
The story continues under the gallery.
The two council members who voted against the resolution on dangerous wages, Al Abdelaziz and Flavio Rivera, stressed that the city has not yet determined how much money it will need for the initiative, nor made a plan. on how to distribute the money among municipal workers.
Abdelaziz and Rivera said they did not want to vote on funding until the city had a distribution plan in place that they felt was fair and equitable.
Officials said calculating the risk premium would be one of the tasks performed by consultants the city hired on Tuesday night, Hoboken’s NW Financial and Morristown’s Millennium Strategies, under their $ 500,000 contract. over three years.
Millennium President Ed Farmer is a good friend and political supporter of Sayegh.
Meanwhile, NW Financial founder Dennis Enright has donated $ 15,600 to the three members of the Paterson State Legislative Contingent over the past year. Enright also donated $ 1,000 in 2018 to the Progressive Values ââPolitical Action Committee, which provided $ 138,000 in support of the Sayegh mayoral campaign that year, according to fundraising records from the state campaign.
City Councilor Alex Mendez said on several occasions Tuesday night that the consulting firm donated $ 138,000 to Sayegh. Mendez did not respond to a message from a reporter asking him to explain why he had made what appeared to be false statements about the consultant’s political donations.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press.
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