Watertown Daily Times
July 27, 2018


On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro announced the funding that the 21st Congressional District will receive from the Northern Border Regional Commission.

The grants are going toward four projects, including the Adirondack North Country Association, Jefferson Community College, SUNY Canton, and the towns of Inlet and Crown Point.

The grant for SUNY Canton includes $111,326 for an Entrepreneurship Accelerator, a joint class/office space for new business owners and a maker space for students and residents alike to prototype new ideas.

“We’re super excited about it,” said Lenore E. VanderZee, SUNY Canton executive director of university relations.

The Regional Commission funding is about a third of what the college needs to outfit the space, and it is the first funding it has received. The college is also looking for possible locations and sources of capital funding.

“What we’d really like it to be is a space where small businesses can get their staff,” Ms. VanderZee said. “It’ll be a very collaborative space … it will be a very community oriented organization.”

The funding will be used to outfit both the teaching and office space as well as the maker space, which will include “everything from sewing machines to 3D printers,” according to Ms. VanderZee.

There is also a $250,000 grant for the $4.25 million Jefferson County College extension site at the Lewis County Education Center. To house the project, the Lewis County Agricultural Society donated the 20,000-square-foot Maple Ridge Center building located off East Road just north of Lowville.

The site is on track to be open to the public in January 2019. Jefferson-Lewis BOCES and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Lewis County will be subleasing the space.

Other 21st Congressional District grants include $248,364 of the $373,130 bill for the Adirondack North Country Association to create a Center for Businesses in Transition, helping north country businesses owned by baby boomers transfer ownership in the coming years in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Hamilton, Clinton, and Essex counties.

There are also two municipal projects in the district receiving significant grants. The Town of Inlet in Hamilton County is receiving $352,000 towards a communications tower, and the Town of Crown Point in Essex County is getting $500,000 for a new sewer facility.

The Regional Commission is a federal agency with state representation — in New York, from the state department — and does not involve federal legislators directly. But Ms. Stefanik has been involved in supporting the commission and the projects in indirect ways.

“Congresswoman Stefanik is the leading voice in New York to ensure that this federal program is appropriated and funded by Congress,” wrote Stefanik spokesman Tom Flanagin in an email to the Times. “She is the coauthor of the bipartisan legislation to extend its authorization for five years and has worked to fund it through the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill which passed the House earlier this year.”

In the Senate, Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-NY successfully added the reauthorization of the Regional Commission to the Senate Farm Bill earlier this year.

According to Mr. Flanagin, Ms. Stefanik also played an advisory role to the commission as they selected projects.

“This includes meeting with NBRC officials to discuss infrastructure needs in our district and working hand in hand with local elected officials and organizations in their applications, as well as writing official letters of support,” Mr. Flanagin wrote. “In the case of the ANCA, Town of Inlet and SUNY Canton grants — as well as others over the years — Congresswoman Stefanik and our office provided letters of support for the funding as well.”

Ms. Stefanik’s office also announced the passage of several bills she supported this week. This included a bill she cosponsored — H.R. 184, the Protect Medical Innovation Act — to repeal a tax on medical devices. The 2.3 percent on manufacturers of medical devices was due to take effect in 2020, but gathered bipartisan support, passing the House 366-52. Ms. Stefanik’s office highlighted the impact on Warren County in particular, home to “catheter valley.”

On Thursday, Ms. Stefanik’s office also announced the passage of two health care related bills, H.R. 6199 and H.R. 6311. The first adds certain over the counter medications to the list of qualified medical expenses, exempting them from certain taxes. The second modifies the definition of qualified health plans under the Affordable Care Act, including excluding coverage of abortion. It is also supposed to lower premiums and expand access to Health Savings Accounts.

Sen. Gillibrand’s office said that as of now, only H.R. 6311 has a Senate equivaleant, but that Sen. Gillibrand would not support either bill if they came up for a vote, saying that H.R. 6311 would undermine the affordable care act and H.R. 6199 would allow gym memberships to count as “qualified medical expenses” under Health Savings Accounts.