City aggressively seeking stimulus funds

Published 11:54 am Tuesday, March 31, 2009

By Staff
Temporary coordinator identifying, contacting sources providing money
Contributing Editor
It’s a nearly $25 million wish list, but funding just a few items with federal stimulus money would make Washington officials happy.
Last week, Smith provided Mayor Judy Meier Jennette and the City Council with a list of prioritized projects (by department). The city is pursuing funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The funding, if awarded, likely will be provided in the form of zero-interest loans or a 50/50 combination of loans and grants, Smith said.
The two most-expensive items on the list are modernizing/relocating the city’s fire-station headquarters at an estimated $6.1 million and building a new police station, estimated to cost $4.2 million. The least-expensive item on the list is installing a public WiFi system and upgrading computers at Brown Library at an estimated cost of $35,000.
The police station, located at the intersection of West Third and Respess streets, is in an area prone to flooding. The police department has outgrown the facility, council members have acknowledged in the past several years.
There’s a chance the city could receive a grant to pay for a new police station, which the city would prefer over borrowing money to build it, Smith said.
Bianca Gentile, the city’s temporary stimulus-funding coordinator, said the city’s move to hire her shows it is “serious about getting aggressive when it comes to going after stimulus funds.”
Gentile said its her job to identify sources of stimulus funds and put the city in the best possible position to obtain them.
Gentile said “there’s a level of complexity” when it comes to dealing with the various agencies distributing stimulus funds.
To date, the city has all but been assured of nearly $1 million to support public housing and safety, said Gentile, who worked with department heads to develop the priority list.
The wish list includes $998,000 for the renovation of Havens Gardens. $1.28 million for installing radio-read water meters and $850,000 to help revitalize housing in the Old Fort neighborhood. Other funding requests include $40,000 for an animal-control officer, $1.5 million for runway expansion at Warren Field Airport, $3.6 million for “green” retrofits of City Hall and the city’s aquatics and fitness center.
As for the stimulus money, the city likely will have a chance for two bites of that apple, Smith said.
That’s good, because other local governments will compete for those stimulus dollars, Smith said.
The city has all but been assured it will be awarded $40,000 for the animal-control officer, Smith said. He’s also “fairly certain” the city will receive about $350,000 for upgrading the sewer lift station at the corner of Main and Respess streets. Because that lift station is prone to flooding, it’s considered a high-priority project, Smith noted.
He also expects a request for $250,000 for expanding a weatherization program that benefits low- to middle-income residents to be approved. The city would work with the Martin County Community Action Agency to provide that program in the Washington area.
Gentile said the state agency that provides funds for weatherization programs has been allocated $136 million to expand such programs across the state. With that money, it plans to quadruple the programs, she said.
Under the state program in the past, $2,500 was the maximum funding available to weatherize an eligible house. That amount will increase to $6,500, Gentile said.
Smith is somewhat confident that project will be funded.
Federal and state agencies with stimulus money to distribute are looking for “shovel-ready” projects that are ready to be built or implemented, Smith said.