Monterey County projects vie for federal stimulus funds.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
With nearly $4 billion in federal stimulus money coming to repair California roads, water systems and buildings, Monterey County cities, schools and agencies are dusting off their hard hats and shovels.
The Transportation Agency for Monterey County is putting together a package of shovel-ready road projects primed for the $787 billion stimulus bill, signed by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17. The bill was expected to save or create 396,000 jobs in the state, though by the Weekly’s deadline, specifics on how much stimulus money would come to the county was unavailable.
TAMC expected to receive $8-$20 million from the first version of the economy-resuscitating legislation, says Deputy Director Don Bachman. County cities and agencies have submitted wish lists, from reconstructing Abrego Street in Monterey to a pedestrian bridge in King City. “Once projects pass the basic screening, we want to give opportunities for each of the member agencies in the county to get their fair share,” Bachman says. The TAMC board is expected to vote on a prioritized list of projects Feb. 25.
Through TAMC, Marina has applied for $600,000 to improve California Avenue. “The hope is that through the infusion of federal dollars, projects that are in need of getting completed are going to get done,” City Manager Tony Altfeld says. “They create jobs and they put people to work.”
Altfeld adds that rehabing the city’s Fort Ord fire station is another priority, and getting money for new radio systems to comply with federal guidelines is on the radar of all local public safety agencies.
But Altfeld realizes the money that may come to Marina is going to be a drop in the bucket. He hopes the feds give the money directly to local cities – as opposed to directing it through the state – so it can be used immediately.
The city of Salinas wants to rehab East Laurel Drive for a cost of about $3 million out of the TAMC pot. City Manager Artie Fields says the city is also working with its Washington, D.C., lobbyist to get other projects funded.
It wasn’t hard for Salinas to find ways to spend federal dollars. The city tallied a $437 million list, from various street improvements to expanding Cesar Chavez Library and buying a hybrid fleet of city vehicles. “We have gone quite some time without the capacity to fund major [capital improvement] projects in the city,” Fields says.
He hopes the dollars will generate jobs for local paving companies and engineering firms, and potentially put more police officers on the streets. The bill includes $1 billion for hiring officers through grants from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). “We think that we will be in position – especially given our last year’s homicide rate – to be in the running for COPS money,” he says.
The city of Monterey is eyeing a state loan for sewer rehabilitation and cash for broadband expansion in addition to a projected $1.5 million for road projects, says Fred Cohn, assistant city manager.
“We won’t see enough to resurface all the streets, but every little bit helps,” he says.
Soledad has requested money for three new street signals and to reconstruct a portion of Nestles Road. Mayor Richard Ortiz says the city is also looking for cash to put up three wind turbines to help power the sewage plant.
Ortiz is proposing that all cities and the county put their stimulus requests into one package. He says if the jurisdictions combine their wish lists and show the state and feds that there are projects ready to go, the county would be better able to compete with bigger cities.
School districts are also hoping for a piece of the stimulus pie. Alisal Union School District is planning to reconstruct several multipurpose rooms contaminated with mold. But the state’s budget mess has stalled the projects.
“Some of our students are eating in portable cafeterias, which is not acceptable,” district Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas says, adding that the district could receive as much as $2.5 million to fund a multipurpose room project. “Our hat is in one hand and our other hand is stretched out to Uncle Sam,” she says.
While still awaiting details on how the money will be allocated to schools, Salinas Union High School District is ready to compete for the funds, whether for installing solar panels at its facilities or building a weight room at Alisal High, says Karen Luna, the district’s manager of planning and facilities.
The Marina Coast Water District wants funding for its regional water augmentation project, a partnership with the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency, that would pump recycled water through Fort Ord. Jim Heitzman, general manager for the water district, says the project is expected to cost $20-$25 million.
“Everyone’s dream is to get it all paid by grants in the stimulus,” he says. “The reality is, the stimulus can’t grant everyone’s dream throughout the nation.”