Officials pursue stimulus
City, county lobby for federal infrastructure dollars
On the 'Net
Visit change.gov/agenda/economy_agenda/ to view President-elect Barack Obama's economic plan.
Steamboat Springs — Yampa Valley children aren’t the only ones preparing lists of Christmas wishes this holiday season.
City and county government officials have their own roll of infrastructure projects they hope will become a reality sooner than previously anticipated. For Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs, however, Christmas would come about a month late – at the earliest – in the form of a multibillion-dollar infrastructure investment plan promised by President-elect Barack Obama’s administration-in-waiting and congressional Democrats.
For now, local officials are lobbying to be kept in the loop.
“There’s a lot of intrigue out there about what might be included in” Obama’s economic plan, said County Commissioner Doug Monger, who noted Routt County schools, roads and water and sewer infrastructure are all subpar. “Hopefully some of the money can come back to counties. : We’re going to be lobbying that we get a fair allocation. You can’t throw all the money into the state governments.”
Details about Obama’s economic plan are vague, but at least two portions of it appear to promise billions of dollars for infrastructure projects. The first is a $25 million emergency investment into a “Jobs and Growth Fund” for roads, bridges and school repairs. The other is a planned “National Infastructure Reinvestment Bank” that would receive $60 billion throughout 10 years “to provide financing to transportation infrastructure projects across the nation” and create more than 2 million new jobs.
Preference will be given to projects that are designed, engineered and ready to kick the switch and put people to work.
“One of the things they’re going to be looking for are projects that are ready to go,” Monger said.
That’s something both the city and county claim to have in abundance.
In its five-year capital improvements plan, the city of Steamboat Springs has more than $150 million worth of projects, of which only a small portion feasibly can be funded from city revenues in that period.
“Our CIP really is that (wish) list,” interim City Manager Wendy DuBord said.
Highlighted in a letter the city sent to members of Colorado’s congressional delegation is $10 million for improvements to Lincoln Avenue downtown, $12 million for work on U.S. Highway 40 in west Steamboat, $6.5 million for wastewater plant expansion and upgrades, $6.2 million for a wastewater main replacement, $6 million for a Mount Werner Water plant expansion, $4 million for multi-modal transportation improvements and $7 million for a new taxiway at the Steamboat Springs Airport.
The county has put some sorely needed projects on hold indefinitely, including reconstruction on Routt County Road 14 between Colorado Highway 131 and Stagecoach Reservoir. Economic stimulus dollars could provide money that would otherwise have to be raised through private donors or voter approval.
In November 2007, Routt County voters overwhelmingly shot down Referendum 1A, a property tax increase that would have raised an estimated $3.3 million or more a year for road improvements and other capital projects.
The odds of a similar measure making it back onto the ballot any time soon are slim, County Manager Tom Sullivan said during budget hearings last month.
“I don’t anticipate voters looking to approve any tax questions for four or five years,” he said.
Other “high priority” projects lacking funding include work on C.R. 76 near the county line, C.R. 179 at Saddle Mountain, C.R. 53 at the Hayden Divide and C.R. 44 at the Lower Elk River crossing, according to county budget documents.
Sprinkled in with local governments’ wish lists, however, are lingering doubts and considerable hurdles.
“There’s a lot of hurting budgets right now,” Sullivan said.
Those include the budgets of most states and jurisdictions representing regions far more populous, and therefore influential, than Northwest Colorado.
“It’s doubtful they’re even going to get down to this level,” DuBord said.
There also will be a nationwide run on the natural resources needed to complete projects.
For example, Monger noted that a dwindling supply of asphalt the county encountered this year persists.
“It’s just going to be a free-for-all to look for the natural resources,” Monger said.
Western Colorado does potentially have a powerful new ally in U.S. Rep. John Salazar, who just has been appointed to the powerful House Appropriations Committee – where details of the stimulus package will be determined.
– To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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