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With a swift stroke of the pen by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, Missouri did not waste any time in spending potential stimulus money headed for the state.
Gov. Jay Nixon had shovel in hand yesterday afternoon in Miller County for the ground breaking of one of three Missouri Department of Transportation projects that began construction yesterday.
Others are also mobilizing fast to plan for money coming to the state. The Mid-America Regional Council will have a committee meeting on Monday to further discuss a project list the organization has been compiling since last December. Now the focus of MARC is on transportation projects.
Congressman Ike Skelton’s Press Secretary Rebecca Loving said locally, $30,000 will go to Ray County for improvements to the Ray County Transit facility.
Although the focus yesterday was on transportation, Richmond officials are still hopeful that stimulus money could still find its way to the city in the form of grants for badly needed water and wastewater projects.
The Richmond Finance Committee last night discussed presentations by three engineering firms to expand and redesign the city’s South Waste Water Plant. The expansion would double the plant’s capacity. Preliminary cost estimates have the project around $6 million.
Councilmen seemed to have narrowed the search to a Kansas City company and a company from Arkansas. The councilmen could not seem to come to a consensus.
City Administrator Rick Childers told councilmembers to do their due diligence in selecting a firm, but said he wants a recommendation by next week’s council meeting.
Childers said in order to find a funding stream, the city will need to have a preliminary engineering design in hand to seek grants or a possible bond issue on the ballot.
“That’s the piece you take forward for funding,” Childers said. “It’s considerably less expensive than the final design.”
He estimated the cost would be somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 but did say the city could have payments deferred or make monthly payments. He said both firms the city is looking at seem to be willing to negotiate.
Loving said the stimulus law includes funding for water and wastewater projects. She said $1.38 billion will go to the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Water grant process. She said additional money will also filter through the Environmental Protection Agency and other existing funding sources.
“We’re trying to use those avenues that aleady exist to make sure money gets to areas as quickly as possible,” Loving said.
Childers said the city could apply for a Community Development Block Grant for up to $75,000 for preliminary engineering. He said the CDBG would not conflict with a CDBG the city is working on for water line replacement.
Childers told councilmen that it seems more grant money for water and wastewater projects could be made available through existing sources such as CDBG, Department of Natural Resources grants and United States Department of Agriculture rural water grants.
“They will have a bigger pot of money to work with is what it looks like,” Childers said.
Much of the focus of the stimulus bill has been on job creation. Numbers released by the White House yesterday indicated that 69,000 jobs would be created in the state with 7,600 of them in Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District that encompasses 25 counties including Ray.
Childers said part of a contract for the south plant would include a clause that would instruct contractors to use local companies.
“We need to frame the contract to make use of local supplies, local surveying and local labor to the extent that they can,” he said.
Last week, Missouri Senators Claire McCaskill and Kit Bond sent a letter to members of Congress working on the compromise that would help more money reach towns like Richmond.
McCaskill’s office released a statement saying a provision was added to the bill allowing State Revolving Funds to include grants. The SRF is a fund that offers low interest loans to states for water and wastewater projects. The fund awarded more than $15 million to Missouri last year.
In the statement, McCaskill said current laws in Missouri make it hard for grants to reach those who need them in the time required by the law. She said it would have prevented funds from reaching rural communities.
“The entire purpose of this bill is to ensure we get money flowing out into the economy quickly and this particular piece of the bill goes even further in that regard by helping local Missouri communities tend to projects that need to be fixed anyway,” McCaskill said in a statement.
Bond praised the committee for including the bi-partisan amendment.
“Missouri communities need these funds to clean their water and I am proud that our bipartisan provision was added to the final package in conference,” said Bond in a statement.
Loving said Richmond may see some relief in dealing with water-shed and flood preventioin operations. She said $290 million is going to the USDA for these projects as well.
To view a complete list of Richmond projects or to comment on projects, go to www.marc.org and click on learn more about Stimulus projects.