In Feb. 19 IssueBy Greg WellsTimes Journal Managing Editor
The stimulus bill signed this week by President Barack Obama could mean money for local projects like roads, sidewalks, water lines and possibly even a jail.
State Rep. Jeff Hoover said members of the legislature and the governor's office are meeting this week to try and sort through the language of the $789 Billion legislation and what it means for state and local governments.
Titled the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the new law has been advertised in part as money for jobs in the form of infrastructure construction and repair.
Hoover said one of the items high on his list, as well as the lists of other local legislators, is the US-127 project. That proposal would add a bridge across the Cumberland River near the dam, as well as straightening many of the curves in that road through southern Russell County and northern Clinton County.
"There is also some general fund stimulus money expected," Hoover added.
State Sen. Vernie McGaha added that a senate bill would limit where that money could be spent.
He said the bill prohibits any growth in the general fund spending until the money raided from the state's rainy-day fund has been replaced.
Replenishing that fund is important, McGaha said, because if that money isn't put back the state could see its bond ratings fall, which would make it harder and more expensive to sell the bonds which finance local projects, like jail construction.
County Judge-Executive Mickey Garner said he is looking for some of that stimulus money to help build a new county jail.
"They said we needed to present projects that could be 'shovel-ready in 90 days,'" Garner said. "That project can be."
He said he has been given some indication on what percentage of the jail's construction could be funded, but added that no one had said stimulus money would be approved for funding such a project.
Garner said he has scheduled a trip to Washington D.C. to plead the county's case to lawmakers.
Local mayors are not planning any long trips, but are working on their own lists of projects.
Sidewalks, to the tune of about $200,000; about $200,000 worth of Blacktop and $300,000 in construction of a new building for the city hall and police department are on the wish list from Russell Springs’ mayor.
"I'm working on more," Mayor Hollis DeHart said. "I'm hopeful that we'll get some of the money."
Jamestown is aiming high. They are asking for $1.3 million for the construction of a new 20-inch water main to the Fruit of the Loom factory, is what Mayor Brooks Bates said they were asking for.
"We're in the process of getting all the things together that we need for extending the sewer lines all the way out to the (Jamestown) marina," Bates added.
He said they are looking for other projects, with the understanding that they have to be projects that can start right away.
McGaha said that one of the federal proposals that could be a big help to Kentucky didn't involve infrastructure.
"They are talking about changing the formula for how we are reimbursed for Medicaid payments," McGaha said. "That would mean a lot (of money) to the state over the next few years."
The millions of dollars that could save the state in Medicaid would mean more money the state could use to make up the shortfall caused by the present recession, he explained.
But McGaha cautioned that none of this money is here yet.
"It may be a while before we see any of that money," McGaha said. "One estimate is that between 4 percent and 5 percent of it may be available before the end of the (fiscal) year."
He said that the legislation has approved the spending and the president has signed the bill but once all the paperwork is finished, the government has another hurdle to clear before money starts to flow.
"They have to sell the bonds to raise that money," McGaha said.