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Syracuse Common Councilors Approve $1.3 M In Federal Relief Funds For Youth Programs

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Children and volunteers with the PAL football camp pose for this photo at Nottingham High School.

Programs aimed at Syracuse youth were among the first to be approved Monday using a portion of $123 million in federal pandemic relief funds. Common councilors agreed to spend a total of $1.3 million dollars to fund the Summer Youth Fellows program through 2023. Council president Helen Hudson says the impact can’t be underestimated.

"I think this is huge, when you're talking about 1,000 young people in the city that will be going to their jobs in the summer. They'll receive stipends. They'll learn how to take care of their money. It gives us a way to help some of these young people thrive and to learn how to grow to be responsible adults.”

While all councilors were supportive, some like Pat Hogan want the Walsh Administration to measure the results of the program so the city can make the case for other funding sources when the federal funds run out.

"There's no doubt in my mind, especially in my second council district, that a program like this is needed to alleviate some of the problems we have in the streets. I'm very aware of that. But this is important: If we have measurable metrics, that we'll probably be able to get funding for this program to continue in the future."

The council also approved $300,000 for the Syracuse Police Athletics League, or PAL, which launched in early June. The football camp began this weekend at Nottingham High School. SPD Director of Community engagement Jimmy Oliver hopes they can build positive relationships between police and youth.

"We have quite a few SPD officers that have volunteered to participate in all of our camps that we will host this summer, as well as the district attorney's office, county sheriff's, and state troopers," said Oliver.

"As well as councilors," councilor Chol Majok chimed in as Oliver chuckled.

Majok will volunteer with the soccer camp, which starts Saturday at Schiller Park. Councilor Khalid Bey is volunteering with the football camp.

The federal relief funds for the PAL can be used for one-time purchases which might include vans, a website, and a STEM program that includes a financial literacy component.

Meanwhile, councilors decided to hold off on approving approval $6 million in federal relief funds aimed at small businesses. The move doesn’t come as a surprise; some councilors last week said they wanted more details from the Walsh administration on how they plan to spend the money. City officials say some would be used for low-interest revolving loans, and some for forgivable loans, or essentially grants. But specifics haven’t been worked out. Councilors, however, did approve $4.5 million in federal relief funds for the first year of the city’s new municipal sidewalk maintenance program, and about a million dollars for major improvements at three city parks.

CRACKDOWN ON OFF-ROAD VEHICLES

In other council business, lawmakers approved a measure that levies hefty fees and fines on those who ride dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles on city streets and in city parks. Mayor Ben Walsh says he plans to sign it after a public hearing. In a release, he says ATV's and dirt bikes don't belong on streets and in parks.

"Cracking down on this quality of life and public safety problem has been a high priority for me. With these new tougher penalties and sizable redemption fees, the City will be able to keep more of these vehicles out of our neighborhoods."

Syracuse police can now impound the vehicles, and the owners must pay a $2,000 redemption fee and have proof of registration to get them back. That’s on top of steep fines: $500 for the first offense, $750 for a second, and $1,000 for a third. The final offense is also a misdemeanor.

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