Beaufort seeks share of stimulus

Published 4:09 am Tuesday, February 17, 2009

By Staff
Sewer, U.S. 17 top county list
Staff Writer
With a national stimulus plan more or less set, local governments nationwide are hoping to belly up to the federal trough. If any of the funds make it from Washington, D.C., to Washington, N.C., local officials hope they’ll help provide water, sewer and a better north-south highway.
One thing’s certain, though: The money will encounter a few hands before it arrives here.
Some of the money will be spent directly by state government, but Spruill said local officials hope the extra funds will make widening U.S. Highway 17 financially feasible.
The expansion of U.S. Highway 17 to a four-lane road from Williamston to New Bern has been Beaufort County’s top transportation priority for the state for the past five years, Spruill said. But any funding decision for the highway will have to come at a state level, where the project has previously been turned down because of budget concerns.
Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan praised stimulus package infrastructure spending in a statement from her office Friday.
According to Hagan’s office, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is the largest block of spending on national infrastructure since the 1950s. America saw spurts of infrastructure growth in the early 20th century as the country developed, and again in the 1950s when the Eisenhower Interstate System was developed.
North Carolina’s other senator, Republican Richard Burr, criticized the stimulus package in a statement, saying it would “expand the government but provide little to no stimulus.” U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican representing much of northeastern North Carolina, also criticized the bill, especially its spending on the National Endowment for the Arts and money for a sexually transmitted disease prevention program.
Democrat Rep. G.K. Butterfield mildly criticized the package’s priorities in a statement, saying he would have preferred to see “more resources for local school improvements and funding to help communities avoid teacher and public safety layoffs.” But he generally praised the plan, saying it would create 6,800 jobs in his congressional district, which is also encompasses a large portion of northeastern North Carolina.
At the county level, Spruill has focused on the water and sewer projects, he said.
Of course, the county doesn’t actually own any sewer projects, but it has been acting as an advocate for several municipal projects as the state has collected a master list of ready-to-go items from across the state, Spruill said.
In Belhaven, the county is pushing for a northern sewer bypass.
Town manager Guinn Leverett said the current Belhaven sewage situation is “a town manager’s worst nightmare.”
The bypass would speed out-of-town sewage directly to the treatment plant, rather than moving it through pumping stations intended for in-town sewage. The project has already received a nearly $500,000 grant from the rural center in Raleigh.
In Chocowinity, the county wants funding for an industrial park sewage system. And in Washington, the county is advocating funding for the Carver Machine Works sewage extension. Both proposals, Spruill said, are in case extra money is needed.
The county is also hoping to secure some money for water projects, Spruill said. The county supplies water to USDA districts in unincorporated areas of the county, and Spruill hopes to get funds to build extra tanks.