President Obama stimulus package could benefit Erie County

SANDUSKY President-elect Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan hasn't created any new jobs yet, but
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

President-elect Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan hasn't created any new jobs yet, but the proposal is stimulating the imaginations of local government officials.

Obama said Sunday a short-term stimulus package is his No. 1 priority.

"We will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s," the president-elect said. He didn't list figures, but others have said the package could be as much as $700 billion.

"Local governments are being squeezed so much right now," said Steve Fought, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo. "They watch TV. They read the newspapers ... It makes sense for local officials to start to get their proposals together."

Fought said before the discussion gets too far, officials will need to know what Obama has in mind.

He said lawmakers presume proposed projects will be scored according to various criteria. For example, it's likely a project will win points if it can be carried out almost immediately, as the point of the bill would be to create jobs.

Sandusky city manager Matt Kline and Erie County commissioner Bill Monaghan already have come up with public works projects that could be launched quickly.

Kline said the city has been talking about rebuilding Hayes Avenue from Columbus Avenue to the overpass. If additional money becomes available, the city could rebuild all of Hayes Avenue, all the way to Perkins Avenue, which separates the city from Perkins Township. Community block grants could be used to provide any needed matching funds.

Kline said he doesn't have an estimate yet on what it would cost to rebuild all of Hayes and explained he's only just begun work on the proposal.

Monaghan said when he asked county officials for construction ideas, sanitary engineer Jack Meyers suggested the Plum Brook Flow Equalization Basin.

The proposed 2.4-million gallon basin would be used after heavy rains to hold large amounts of wastewater from the sewage system, storing it until wastewater treatment plants can catch up with the backlog, Meyers said. The project would help the environment because, after heavy rains, the county has no choice but to release dirty water and let it flow into Sandusky Bay.

The cost of building the basin -- to be located in the back of a small park located south of Sandusky-Griffing Airport -- would be $2.8 million.

Plans for the project aren't done yet, but "I've told the engineering firm I'd like to have them done and ready to go out to bid in February," Meyers said.

If the bids were awarded in March, work could begin in April or May.

Kline said he's been told the federal government's Economic Development Administration would dole out the grants for the stimulus projects. The EDA awards grants to help local economies.

A few weeks ago, the EDA awarded Erie County $2.38 million to install a new sewer line along U.S. 250, from Kalahari to the turnpike.

Ordinarily, a big grant would mean Erie County would have to wait several years to ask for another, but the EDA is under pressure to award more grants and expects to get lots of new money soon, officials from the Poggemeyer Design Group in Bowling Green told Monaghan and the other county commissioners last month. Poggemeyer is now trying to pursue another EDA grant, for a new building for the county's planned 23-acre business park on Huron-Avery Road, just east of U.S. 250.

Jere Witt, county administrator in Ottawa County, said his county hasn't nominated any project yet, but could do so quickly because of its planning process.

The county's sanitary engineer maintains a five-year capital improvements plan that could be tapped quickly if projects were needed.

"You can be first in line because you're a little more prepared," he said.

Huron County commissioner Mike Adelman said the county hasn't heard from U.S. Rep Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, yet and doesn't know what kinds of projects might be considered.

"I'm a little unsure about what the president-elect is looking for," Adelman said.

If Huron County finds it could get some money, he said "we'll do our darndest to pull things together."