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Binghamton Approves Council Chamber Repair In Chaotic Meeting

Binghamton ARP Funds WEB

ENDWELL, NY (WSKG) — Binghamton City Council voted in a special meeting Monday to allocate funding from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) stimulus toward making roof and ceiling repairs to city council chambers.

The $659,000 appropriation was approved four to three along party lines with the council’s Republican majority in favor.

The measure was held over from last week’s business meeting at the request of Councilman Joe Burns, a Democrat, who said Monday he wanted more time to study the criteria that projects need to meet in order to be funded by money from the federal stimulus package.

The City of Binghamton will receive $46 million from the ARP, $23 million of which has already been delivered to the city. Burns and the other Democrats on the council said they wanted a more clear plan of where the funds would be allocated.

 "There are different methods being done and proven successful by mayors of local municipalities that we can just model our process after,” Councilwoman Angela Riley told WSKG after the meeting. “We have no knowledge right now."

Earlier this year, Riley and the other Democrats hosted a forum on how to spend the ARP funds. She said many of the attendees promoted using funding toward affordable housing.

 "We had a lot of attendees and we have data as to how things should be prioritized and housing was number one,” Riley said.

The meeting Monday did not allow official comment from members of the public. Part of the way into the meeting several people spoke up, eventually escalating into shouting arguments with council members and city staff, including Council President Sophia Resciniti and Acting Director of Personnel Sharon Sorkin. A handful of city hall security personnel were gathered to the side of the atrium where the meeting was taking place.

Eventually, Councilman Giovanni Scaringi suggested adjourning the meeting for 10 minutes, in order to allow the people gathered to talk with members of the council. Council followed that lead, then allowed several people to speak, though technically not as official public comment. Many of those who spoke berated the council, arguing the funding should be geared toward solving issues around housing, homelessness and substance use.

When council reconvened, it voted in favor of the $659,000 measure and adjourned.

The council chambers ceiling has been damaged from a leaky roof. The ceiling also needs asbestos remediation.

Council officially accepted $23 million of the ARP funds at the end of June. Last week, it signed off on a measure allocating $258,000 toward development of affordable housing units. Additional legislation is also in the works for the ARP funds, including one item to move $6.2 million to the city’s general fund.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.