Georgia: Trickling down

Georgia: Trickling down

March 22nd, 2009 by Beverly Carroll in Georgia

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell<br> J.J. Goins, with East Tennessee Grading, Inc., works on the site where the City of Fort Oglethorpe is digging trenches to install a gravity sewer line for the West Chickamauga interceptor at the Mack Smith Road pump station.

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell<br> J.J. Goins, with East...

Fort Oglethorpe officials are disappointed at not being included in the federal stimulus dollars for transportation announced Thursday, but state officials said another round of projects will be considered this summer.

"I'm peeved that we have not been included in any stimulus money," Mayor Ronnie Cobb said. "We have the majority of traffic flow in North Georgia but I don't feel like we are getting any help."

Georgia received $512 million for phase one of transportation projects in the federal stimulus plan. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act is expected to create or save 3.5 million jobs nationwide by the end of 2010, according to a Web site created by Georgia officials.

The Georgia Department of Transportation on Thursday released a list of 135 eligible projects. Just one was in Catoosa County - intersection improvements at Pine Grove Road and Battlefield Parkway.

"That's in Ringgold," Mr. Cobb said. "We have projects that are more than shovel-ready. We have road-widening projects that benefit the region. I guess we don't have a good voice at the table."

Catoosa County, Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe officials asked for stimulus dollars for road improvements, sanitary sewers and water treatment plant rehabilitation.

The projects were to be "shovel ready," GDOT spokesman David Spear said.

"All that really means is we need to be able to have awarded the contract to begin work by June 30," he said. "A lot of preliminary would extends the progress and the whole goal is to have jobs that can be finished right away."

Mr. Spear said projects passed over this time will be considered in phase two.

Gov. Sonny Perdue must give the final approval.

"He is going to do his due diligence," Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said. "He is going to make sure the projects were selected the right way and that they will provide benefit and value to Georgians and not just spend money because it's available."

Transportation is one of eight broad categories in the stimulus package. The Catoosa County Sheriff's Office and Fort Oglethorpe Police Department may ask for more officers under the public safety section.

"We are looking at applying for a grant that pays 100 percent of an entry-level officer's salary for three years," Fort Ogle-thorpe City Manager Ron Goulart said. "We may try for one or two. The problem is once you get them, you have to keep them and we would be responsible for the costs."

Ringgold City Manager Dan Wright said the city is looking for environmental dollars. He chose some projects at the water treatment plant that would save electricity.

Walker County got approval for a street resurfacing project, and two streetscaping projects in Rossville and Chickamauga will be funded. Walker County spokesman Larry Brooks said the streetscaping money is coming through the Metropolitan Planning Organization for Chattanooga and North Georgia.

Catoosa County Manager Mike Helton said he submitted about $2.1 million worth of projects, and Mr. Goulart said Fort Oglethorpe submitted about $10 million.

"If we could get funding for things that are on our plate anyway, it frees up local money to do other projects," Mr. Helton said. "This money could potentially give some local companies a shot in the arm. A lot of companies are teetering, and this could give a job to tide them through until the economy jump-starts."

Not all stimulus money will come through the governor's office, Mr. Brantley said.

Some programs, such as Medicaid, increase automatically, he said. Gov. Perdue recently approved an increase in unemployment benefits and housing money is going directly to local governments.

Mayor Cobb said he plans to step up lobbying efforts for the city. One project, an extension of Stuart Road, is almost ready for bidding.

"That's more than shovel-ready," he said. "I'm going to have to start screaming. I'm going to find out why we are not being represented."