A proposed community garden to combat food insecurity in one of Erie’s poorest neighborhoods was expected to be operational by the end of this summer.
Instead, an indefinite postponement was made due to the county’s refusal of funding.
Yes, according to Tina Emengine, CEO of the Erie County Redevelopment Authority and project manager for the renovation of Joyce A. Savocchio Opportunity Park.
What is Sabotchio Park?Plans for Savocchio Park take shape
Designed to give residents east of Erie immediate access to fresh farming, the Community Garden is one of many facilities planned for the park at the intersection of East 16th Street and Downing Avenue.
Greenhouses and other facilities, such as aquaponics and aquaculture centers, are expected to be operational by 2024 if other sources of funding are available, but Mengine said community gardens would effectively be “on the backburner.” I was.
“It’s unfortunate for the neighborhood,” Mengine told the Erie Times-News. It’s a food dessert over there, and this is giving them the opportunity to ignite their own small business and satisfy their needs.”
Budget rejection:County Council, Davis officials split over budget denial process, setting up potential legal showdown
The loss of funds comes after Erie County Chief Executive Brenton Davis issued a veto in December that eliminated $750,000 in funding for the American rescue plan for the park. The county council failed to overturn his veto after a week.
Mengine said the redevelopment agency is still looking for grants to bring community gardens to life. However, it is not yet clear whether that reality will come next year or the year after that.
Brenton Davis calls the project a ‘speculative investment’
Davis explained his veto in a Dec. 7 memo, calling the park project a “speculative investment” and arguing that he had not seen a significant return on investment.
“We could allocate the majority of the county’s[rescue plan]dollars to fish farms and create only a dozen jobs,” Davis wrote. , but our final analysis suggests that these valuable funds could have a greater impact elsewhere.”
A Republican who put economic development at the center of his administration, Davis has frequently promoted using Rescue Plan funds for projects he believed would create more wealth and jobs in the county. The most notable example is Project Resolve, which Behrend officials at Pennsylvania State University say will create about 5,000 jobs in the area over the next decade.
What is project resolution?:Could a $5 million investment in Project Resolve prevent a brain drain and revitalize Erie’s advanced manufacturing industry?
In a Dec. 14 video posted on the reelection campaign’s Facebook page, Davis elaborated on why he doesn’t think funding the Savocchio Park project is a good use of taxpayer money.
“What does this tell the residents of this community that the best job we can offer you is to stop in a tank and grow crops out of a barrel?” he said. “The message we should send to these individuals is: ‘We are here. We are ready to prepare for the future through our community college.”
County Assembly Speaker Brian Shank had backed funding the park before changing positions and agreeing with Davis, but the Times News reported that the county government had independently allocated funds for the rescue plan to the City of Erie. The focus should not be on other municipalities in the county.
“I get asked all the time, ‘Brian, why are you supporting fish farms in Erie when you need new water?’ That’s a good point,” Shank said.
Joyce Savocchio objects to the characterization of ‘fish farms’
Former Erie mayor Joyce Savocchio told The Times News that she disagreed with Davis describing her namesake park as a “fish farm,” saying the idea of aquaponics is sustainable. He said it was encouraged by state governments as a means of achieving food security.
“So many states are doing this as a project, and there are so many businesses growing all over the country based on hydroponics,” she said. I think it’s better to get these terms exactly right before they’re used as stuff, and there’s someone out there who’s willing to sit down with a county executive and tell him whatever explanation he gives I’m sure that needs.”
Savocchio commented on the park as follows:Savocchio Business Park Takes New Ownership
CA Curtze Co. of Erie supports the following plans:Erie’s Curtze Co. leaders tout urban farming potential at Sabotchio Park
A Democrat, Savocchio served as Erie’s first female mayor from 1990 to 2001. Her administration has launched an initiative that will lead to the creation of an industrial park.
She notes that county government leaders have yet to see an opportunity in the park, or the amount of time and resources that have transformed the site from a dump once strewn with tires and debris into a potential economic powerhouse. He said it was a “huge disappointment” not to have seen
Sabotchio Park is one of eight areas approved for the Opportunity Zones program in the Erie region. Federal programs are intended to encourage private investment in low-income census districts by offering tax incentives to investors.
The name of the park was changed from Savocchio Business Park to Savocchio Opportunity Park following the designation of the Opportunity Zone.
“It’s their time,” she said, referring to the east side of the city. rice field.”
Mengine said the park project, once fully realized, will create at least 50 jobs and will include commercial kitchen incubators and a co-packaging facility in later stages. She said the project has about $1.5 million on hand, including her $1 million from the city, for a total of about $2.5 million.
The city supports park projects.Erie City Council Approves ARP Funding for Storm Drain Repair, Sabotchio Park Plan, and Demolition
“There is probably no project funded or that could be funded that is better suited to the mission of the American Rescue Plan,” she said. We’ll deal with it. It’s a win-win across the board.”
On Tuesday, the Redevelopment Authority awarded a $50,000 grant from the PA Farm Bill Urban Agriculture program. The grant will be donated to the park, Mengine said.
Gary Horton, executive director of Urban Erie Community Development Corporation and co-founder of the Minority Community Investment Coalition, which bought the park in 2019, said he is optimistic that the park’s facilities will bear fruit.
“Our partnership with the Redevelopment Authority has been a good one and they have pledged to work with us to complete this project.” We know what that means as part of our strategy.”
Horton’s comments on the park:Horton: Help Comes to Savocchio Park
Savocchio said one of her aides, Horton, supported the plans for the industrial park when she was in office. Horton, who has been an advocate for the development of Erie’s east side for years, said he hopes to use the site for ventures such as urban farming and renewable energy projects.
“I am someone who believes in Ellie’s future and its potential,” added Savocchio. “I don’t think now is the time to give up on that site.”
AJ Rao can be reached at email@example.com. follow him on twitter @ETNRao.