Consultants work to secure funding for several Williamsport projects | News, Sports, Jobs
Economic development consultants work for Williamsport on flood protection, public safety and other life improvements, trying to find Congressional-directed spending that is earmarked and other sources of funding for major projects .
Keller Partners of Washington, DC this week presented a quarterly report to the Williamsport City Council and administration on the progress of their business.
The official business of council was to vote to pass a resolution authorizing the first renewal of the consulting agreement between the city and the company.
It has been announced that the mayor will travel to Washington, DC on May 10 to meet with a congressional delegation. The goal, according to company director Thomas Keller, is to explore competitive grants and continue to build on relationships forged with federal officials on projects such as rehabilitation, certification and accreditation of dykes.
The levee protects up to $5 billion in real estate within the Greater Williamsport Flood Protection Area.
Along with U.S. Senator Bob Casey, D-Scranton, the federal redistricting of Pennsylvania had made the city represented in Congress by U.S. Representatives Dan Meuser and Glenn Thompson.
âIt is very important to have the mayor as the representative of the city in front of these key federal decision makers,â Keller said.
A risk assessment of the levee by the Army Corps of Engineers to further identify weaknesses is estimated at $500,000 with a cost of half the game as part of the risk assessment. The work could take six to eight months.
Plans are in place to resubmit a $550,000 grant through the US Department of Justice.
This is a competitive grant under the “Connect and Protect” program, a law enforcement and behavioral health program.
The concept is to train law enforcement to work across jurisdictions with behavioral health professionals to improve outcomes with people with co-occurring mental illness and addiction.
When these people come into contact with the justice system, the goal is to improve the way law enforcement is able to handle this case and to try to reduce the number of people who go to jail.
Initially, Casey included the funding request for the police in an appropriations bill that did not make it a final bill and no municipality received the funding, according to Slaughter. âWe have made some adjustments which we hope will position us for the resubmission of the grant application,â he said.
Keller Partners submits another Congressional-led spending request for the Senate and House for the seawall and for streetscape and beautification of the Newberry section along Arch Street from Abraham Howard Bridge to Ave. Dewey
âFrom the discussions, we are very positive about the direction of these requests,â Keller said.
The firm has identified grants from Homeland Security, Justice and Transportation. As these grants are rolled out, the company will have an eye on those related to the city’s funding needs.
Included are possible funds resulting from the bipartisan infrastructure law.
Keller thanked the city administration and named Slaughter and Jon Sander, city engineer, for continuing to identify the city’s needs.
Councilman Randall J. Allison said he heard there might be pre-mitigation grants available from the state Emergency Management Agency and was told he was right.
Allison also asked what impact the redistricting map had on the city. He was told that every decade a redistricting is done and that resulted in the removal of US Representative Fred Keller’s seat. Keller ultimately decided he didn’t want to run against another Republican. Williamsport can benefit from having two congressmen representing voters along with Thompson and Meuser.
Keller said the company is working on those relationships when it comes to allocating project funding.
Councilman Jon Mackey said that in terms of levee, a frequently used statistic applies: “For every dollar spent on mitigation, you save $6-8 in recovery costs.”
Mackey also urged the partners to vigorously pursue the Justice grant because he believed such crisis intervention for police was extremely important.
He asked why the initial grant application had not taken place. He was told officials wanted to ensure the city had more resources to oversee grant administration other than police administration.
Additionally, the grant administrators want to see a dedicated behavioral health specialist to be part of a crisis intervention team.
Councilman Eric Beiter questioned why the corps’ risk assessment of the levee was necessary since there have already been engineering studies done to identify weaknesses such as cross pipes that don’t drain. incorrectly and an I-shaped wall, etc. (not be high or strong enough to withstand a major flood).
The risk assessment should take place while the city and county work on the gaps already identified.
The Corps conducts an annual inspection and a more in-depth inspection of the dyke every five years. Keller Partners argued for a successful $5.6 million grant for portions of the levee on Lycoming Creek from the US Economic Development Administration in a previous administration.
Keller Partners worked with the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority on the replacement of its water and sanitary distribution and disposal systems and two fresh water tanks.
The company was not specifically asked to help end transit for the city, but would be willing to explore any potential transit-related funding sources.