Local communities gear up for possible stimulus

The scramble is on to get the post-Christmas wish list together.
With talk about a possible federal stimulus package in the works many local communities, including Richmond, are getting their project wish list together.
The Mid-America Regional Council has set up a link on their Web site for local communities in the area to submit public works and road projects that they would like to see federal dollars funneled to.
MARC is a group made up of local government entities in the Kansas City area that includes Ray County.
MARC Director of Community Development Marlene Nagel said the council saw a need to act quickly because it has been indicated to MARC that the Obama administration would like to hit the ground running with a stimulus package after his inauguration on Jan. 20. Some estimate there could be anywhere from $300 to $500 billion invested in public works and transportation projects.
Nagel said many other national organizations and state organizations like MoDOT have already put together a potential project list.
“It seemed to our local officials that it would be helpful to compile an inventory of potential projects so our congressional delegation kind of understand the needs and the opportunities that might advance,” Nagel said. “The more information that we can have ready by early January that would be helpful to making our case as a region and helpful to our congressional delegation.”
Nagel said the council is not prioritizing or approving any projects, but rather is compiling the list to demonstrate that projects are ready to go and to demonstrate the extent of the needs of our area. Nagel said there have been indications that projects that are ready to begin in the next 90 to 180 days are more likely to get approved.
Area communities such as Excelsior Springs and Wood Heights have already submitted a list of projects that can be viewed at the MARC Web site. The public is also encouraged to comment on projects that are listed.
Nagel said MARC is asking communities to submit their list by Jan. 7. She said MARC officials would meet with local congressional leaders on Jan. 9 to discuss the list.
Four senators last week, including Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill-D, sent a letter to congressional leadership calling for major investments in major water and sewer projects.
In the letter, the senators said for every $1 billion spent on infrastructure projects, 35,000 to 50,000 jobs are created.
Additionally, the senators wrote that a recent Environmental Protection Agency report said the state of America’s public drinking water and wastewater systems would need nearly $500 billion in improvements over the next 25 years. Furthermore the report said an estimated $59 billion is needed now for outdated systems.
The letter is welcome news for many of the communities in Ray County, including Richmond. City Administrator Rick Childers told members of the Richmond Kiwanis Club last week that the city has five or six projects that are ready to go.
“We’re going to take a shot at as many things as we can,” Childers said.
Among potential projects for Richmond would be the South Wastewater Plant, upgrades to the North Wastewater Plant, extensive sewer line replacement and storm water projects.
In addition, communities such as Orrick, Hardin and Henrietta have staggering needs in infrastructure.
Nagel said that MARC anticipates federal dollars would be funneled through already existing federal and state programs.
A policy adopted by MARC’s board of directors earlier this month, urges Congress to consider changing the way funds are streamlined, particularly those that involve a federal review process. Additionally, they are asking Congress to waive or reduce matching requirements.
“Local and state governments face budget crises, and matching requirements should be reduced or waived to allow for the effective and timely investment of the federal dollars,” the policy states.
Nagel said MARC will still continue to accept projects for the list after Jan. 7 but urged communities to get a list in as soon as possible.

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