Town makes play for Obama stimulus funds

Five projects put up for consideration

The town of Crested Butte is getting an early jump on the federal economic stimulus bandwagon. Town manager Susan Parker has written a letter to several state and national politicians asking to be considered as a recipient of federal funds that may be part of president-elect Obama’s “infrastructure-based” stimulus package.



“It’s a great opportunity for us to initiate some capital projects that we wouldn’t pursue at this time because of the economy,” explained Parker. “It can provide jobs and inject money into the community.”
According to a Colorado Municipal League Newsletter, a dollar invested in an infrastructure project generates an additional $1.59 in economic activity for a community.
Parker sent the letter to U.S. congressman John Salazar, U.S. senator Ken Salazar, Colorado governor Bill Ritter, state senator Kathleen Curry and state representative Gail Schwartz.
The letter cites five major Crested Butte projects estimated to cost anywhere from $475,000 to $1.8 million that the town could use some assistance on—everything from a wastewater treatment plant clarifier to the paving of Eighth Street.
Parker lets the politicians know that the town has felt the economic pinch for more than a year. In response, the town of Crested Butte froze capital expenditures in 2008 that were not fully funded or had a “use it or lose it” provision.
According to a memo from the National League of Cities, America’s cities and towns are calling upon the federal government to include funding in an economic recovery package that would accelerate infrastructure investments through programs like federal highway and public transit programs, Amtrak, the Airport Improvement Program, the Community Development Block Grant Program, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, and the state clean water and drinking water programs.
Investment in ready-to-go infrastructure projects—including funds for airports, housing, highways, bridges, transit, clean water, sewer, communications technology, and schools—creates jobs and stimulates the economy.
“We were able to complete one major infrastructure project this past summer. The $1.7M street realignment project was funded using a significant portion of our capital reserve and matching grants that were dedicated to this project,” Parker wrote. “We believe this project generated additional economic activity and helped offset some of the reduction in sales tax we experienced this summer.
“As we fast approach 2009, we are again contemplating ‘freezing’ capital expenditures,” the letter continues. “However, what differs from last year’s capital programming is the lack of sufficient reserves in this uncertain environment to complete the following list of public infrastructure projects that have the highest priority. “
Parker says, “unfortunately, during these difficult economic times the need to construct these high priority public projects and the risk associated with inaction does not lessen.”
The town wanted to make sure they were on the list to receive funds if federal dollars become available.
“We’re taking the initiative and getting our ducks in a row to obtain some funding for these projects,” Parker said on Friday, December 19. “Among the long-term benefits is that we won’t need to bond and take a loan which would result in the town having to pay interest. It also creates jobs and that money circulates in the valley. These are also pretty big projects that could last a couple of years.”
In the request letter, the town says money coming to Crested Butte will help stimulate Main Street (a.k.a. Elk Avenue). “I respectfully submit these high priority and ‘ready to go’ projects for consideration if the Federal Economic Stimulus Program becomes a reality. Full funding or assistance with matching requirements often associated with these types of projects would benefit our struggling local economy and create jobs and Main Street economic activity,” wrote Parker.
“We think the money will be approved by the U.S. Congress and then be funneled to the states. The state will them distribute the money for local projects,” Parker said. “It is still very, very early in the process but we wanted to be on top of it.”
The letters went out last week.

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