Grand County towns seek millions in stimulus money
March 12, 2009
It’s not clear yet how much of the $2 billion in Colorado’s share of the federal stimulus money will filter to Grand County communities as state agencies consider lists of “shovel ready” projects.
With transportation, water infrastructure, education and energy money made available, communities throughout Colorado have their wish lists.
The most likely reach of stimulus funds to rural Grand County could be needed water-system improvements.
Prior to the passing of billions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Colorado governments were invited to submit to the state for consideration various projects worthy of stimulus funding.
Granby Town Manager Wally Baird was feeling encouraged this week that Granby had made a list of water projects through the Water Quality Control Commission of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment ” albeit, they are low on the list.
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“It’s like seriously overbooking an airplane,” said Nancy Horan of the Water Quality Control Commission about projects invited to come aboard with the promise of new money coming available. “The goal was to make sure that the plane would fly without any empty seats.”
The Act ended up providing about $62 million to the Water Quality Control Division, which establishes priorities for which projects get dollars.
The money applied through the stimulus could serve to supplement projects already on deck for improved drinking water and wastewater systems, according to Horan.
The mostly likely candidate to receive help through stimulus funds is the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs, which has already been high on the state’s list seeking a $2 million loan for its crippled domestic water system.
Fraser, Kremmling and Grand Lake are other towns that have been waiting for state loans. Fraser’s projects ” listed as category 2 with category 1 being the highest priority ” have been eligible for three years.
Grand Lake is seeking a $2 million state loan for a new water treatment facility and distribution lines; Kremmling is seeking more than $7 million for a major overhaul of its water system. They are eligible behind Hot Sulphur and Fraser in category 3.
“I’m just not going to be shocked by any stretch of the imagination if we don’t get any funding,” said Town Manager Shane Hale of Grand Lake, saying that the need far exceeds the money available ” even with the stimulus money.
Grand Lake added to the scope of its water-system project with the onset of stimulus funds coming to Colorado. Such additions are placed at the bottom of the ladder in category 6. The Fraser Sanitation District, the Grand County Water and Sanitation District No. 1 and Granby also jumped on board.
Included in Granby’s stimulus wish list are water and sewer upgrades to distribution and collection lines in the south service area, improved well-head protection, and a replacement of storm drainage in the north service area.
Encouraged by the state, the town of Granby also submitted a request for $1.2 million on behalf of Moraine Park to replace its water system.
The state water agency’s deadline to have the federal dollars committed is Sept. 30, according to Horan. “Colorado does not want any (of Colorado’s) federal dollars to be redistributed to other states,” she said.
Granby also sought transportation funding for local road projects, but Baird later discovered most of the stimulus money is being applied to state highway projects. The only Grand County stimulus road project most likely will be U.S. 40 toward Rabbit Ears Pass.
The Town of Winter Park did not have “shovel-ready” projects, holding off applying for stimulus funds, according to Town Manager Drew Nelson.
One thought was seeking transit money given to the state.
Winter Park considered seeking stimulus money to buy new buses for its resort-town bus system.
But in his research, Winter Park Town Manager Drew Nelson found that the requirements attached with the federal funds are not a good match for what is currently a privately funded transit system, he said.
“It’s a little more complex than just getting a check from the federal government,” he said. “It’s not like the Town of Winter Park has its head in the sand and is not looking for these dollars; it’s that it is trying to find the right way to do it.”
Fraser also explored seeking stimulus funds for a train trestle that would supply an alternate route to Winter Park, but the project is not at the point of qualifying, the town found.
Fraser Town Manager Jeff Durbin believes the engineering resources needed to make any town project “shovel-ready” ” or ready to be implemented ” are more than what the small town can afford right now.
Because of the “shovel-ready” requirement attached to stimulus funds, small towns may be at a disadvantage, he said. Durbin predicts the bulk of the stimulus money could target larger towns equipped to get projects quickly ready-to-go.
On the energy front, local groups are looking into what stimulus funds could be attracted to Grand County. Among various opportunities in mind, they are examining the possibility of a future biofuels energy plant, according to Vicky Burton of Energy Opportunities.
In response to that group’s interest and that of the Grand County Business and Economic Development Association, Burton said, a representative from the Governor’s Office is slated to visit the county in the upcoming month to give a presentation about stimulus funds available.
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