Moore on Wish List For Stimulus Funds
Moore County is on the list when the state allocates federal stimulus funds to local governments for infrastructure projects.
Three major improvement projects affecting the oldest part of the Pinehurst sewer system have been placed on the list for funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), better known as the stimulus package. Estimated cost is in the millions.
"We're trying to move ahead," said County Manager Cary McSwain. "We're shovel-ready. The engineering is already done."
McSwain and engineering staffers from county utilities attended a hearing conducted Tuesday by the Division of Water Quality, an arm of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), called for the purpose of receiving information from local governments about needed water and sewer projects that might be eligible for stimulus financing.
State and local officials are entering this special market with few details about eligibility and other requirements, but the Moore County people did learn that April 3 is the deadline to apply.
"We put a whole bunch of projects on the table," McSwain said. "We made presentations. We talked to the county commissioners' association, to DENR and anybody who would listen to us. We're on the list."
Rehabilitation of the Lake Pinehurst sewer lines, work on the "Old Town" sewer system and a lift station replacement are among the major needs in the oldest part of the Pinehurst system, and McSwain said it is vitally important to get started on these projects as soon as money is available. He thinks they might be suitable for stimulus money allocations.
The three Pinehurst projects are among dozens of water and sewer infrastructure projects included in the county's current and future Capital Improvement Plan. Ben Vaughn, utilities operations manager for the Department of Public Works, made a presentation on these needs at a Monday meeting of the Board of Commissioners.
Total Exceeds $80 Million
Estimated cost of all projects presently under way and scheduled through 2018 exceeds $80 million. In addition to Pinehurst projects, the plan includes expansion of the wastewater treatment plant and miscellaneous projects throughout the systems owned and operated by the county.
Moore County can also expect to receive a $341,470 credit on Medicaid payments for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. This will be a one-time payment, coming in the final year of a three-year phaseout in which the state is to take over all Medicaid financial responsibility. Next year, the state is supposed to take over all Medicaid payments.
McSwain said there are several other areas where the county may benefit to some extent from ARRA. However, the details are a little fuzzy in some areas, and in some cases the benefit will be limited. For example, one provision would pay the salaries of law-enforcement officers who were new or being rehired after layoffs.
ARRA would pay salaries for three years, after which the salary costs would be the responsibility of local governments. In the case of Moore County, no officers have been laid off, and new hirings are not being planned.
No funds are available for school construction. Elsewhere in the bill is a flex fund that can be used to maintain and/or restore state funding for schools, and it's possible that some of this money can be applied to the county school capital outlay budget.
Transportation funds are available to the N.C. Department of Transportation, which will be responsible for deciding which ones have priority.
At the Monday meeting, the Board of Commissioners approved two resolutions expressing support for two minor highway improvements. One resolution asks for the addition of paved shoulders on U.S. 1 from the Southern Pines town limits to Aiken Road at Lakeview. The other asks for construction of a turn lane extension on U.S. 1 at the STARS charter school to alleviate long traffic lines. This project would also involve widening.
Help for Buyers, Renters
New energy/weatherization funding may be available through the Department of Social Services and the Departments of Aging or Community Development. Funds may be available to help renters, new home buyers or existing homeowners through DSS or Community Development, and the DSS may be eligible for an emergency shelter grant for homelessness prevention. There's a possibility that funds may be available for workforce or employment services through the DSS.
Other projects that may be available to health and human services agencies include assistance with food stamp caseloads, additional immunizations, electronic medical records software for the Health Department, and additional funding for Work First clients. Sandhills Community Action Program, which is not a county agency, may be eligible for a formula grant to help low-income people to become self-sufficient.
Among the programs that are available to counties but may not be applicable here are funding in high-poverty areas to meet higher state standards and to help special education students and funds for broadband technology if the county is interested in getting into this business.
Indirect benefits may take other forms.
Tax provisions may have an impact on local governments by providing lower interest rates on bonds because buyers may have greater incentives to buy. This may also result in a 35 percent federal reimbursement for general obligation bonds for education facilities and revenue bonds for public utilities.
Revised 2009 tax tables may reduce employee payroll tax amounts, resulting in a $20 increase in take-home pay, reflected in each paycheck.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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