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Stimulus to benefit local projects

March 02, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Local transit, highway resurfacing and public housing projects will be among those to benefit from the $787 billion federal stimulus package passed last month, local officials confirmed.

Much of the approximately $3.8 billion designated for the state of Maryland has yet to be allocated, but some early announcements include:

  • $2.3 million for public transit in the Tri-State area

  • $2.3 million for federal highway resurfacing projects in Washington County

  • $2.2 million for the Hagerstown Housing Authority

    The county is waiting to hear back about which, if any, of the almost $1 billion worth of county and municipal infrastructure projects submitted for consideration will be selected to receive funds, said Joseph Kroboth, the county's director of public works. State agencies will update local officials on the selection process at a meeting March 9, Kroboth said.

    Maryland's share

    The stimulus package, titled the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was passed by Congress Feb. 13 and signed into law Feb. 17.

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A review of the law by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services identified more than $3.7 billion that will go to Maryland governments. That includes $2.2 billion for fiscal stabilization and Medicaid to relieve stress on state and public school budgets; $765 million in infrastructure grants; $396 million for education aid; $102 million in additional grants to local governments; and $285 million in other grants.

The transit and resurfacing funds are part of phase one of the state's $610 million transportation recovery program. Phase one allocates about $142 million to transit projects across the state, including MARC and Metro improvements, as well as local transit projects, and about $365 million to highway projects, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Additional transportation projects will be announced after more consultation with local governments and transit and highway representatives at the federal level, Gov. Martin O'Malley's office said in a press release last month.

Transportation funding

Kevin D. Cerrone, Washington County's transportation director, said the Hagerstown urban area, which is defined to include Washington County and parts of Franklin County, Pa., and Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia, is slated to receive $2,271,913 for transit projects.

Cerrone said he wasn't sure yet how much of that would go to the Washington County transit system, but he did know that all of the transit projects for which the county submitted grant applications for fiscal year 2010 will be funded through stimulus money. Normally, federal grants pay for 80 percent of transit projects' cost, and the state and county must each pay 10 percent, but for fiscal year 2010, the state and county will not have to contribute that 10 percent match, Cerrone said.

The county submitted requests for about $1.4 million worth of transit projects for fiscal 2010, including:

  • $839,100 for a transfer point relocation

  • $440,000 for two replacement busses

  • $20,000 for a car for drivers to use to travel between headquarters and the transfer point at shift changes

  • $10,000 to bring an underground used-oil tank up to code

  • $10,000 for miscellaneous shop equipment

    The highway resurfacing funding allocated for Washington County totals $2.3 million and will be used on various federal highways throughout the area, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation. The projects are expected to support 66 jobs.

    Public housing funding

    Federal stimulus funds will help the Hagerstown Housing Authority catch up on a backlog of repairs to the low-rent housing it provides to low-income families in Hagerstown, Executive Director Ted Shankle said.

    Public housing was included in the stimulus package because nationally, capital funds for public housing agencies have been falling short of what those agencies need for physical repairs and maintenance, Shankle said. A total of $4 billion was designated for public housing agencies nationwide. That money is being divided according to need, he said.

    The Hagerstown Housing Authority is getting $2,245,973, which will cover about 80 percent of the physical needs identified in its most recent study, Shankle said.

    "The timing couldn't have been better," Shankle said. "We were starting to worry about how we were going to get these done."

    Among the capital projects the agency plans to tackle this year are:

  • $1.2 million to replace old, calcified pipes and improve bathrooms at about 300 units in the Frederick Manor, Douglass Court and Sumans Avenue developments

  • $375,000 in kitchen improvements

  • Replacement of roofs and installation of more energy-efficient doors and windows at Noland Village

  • A balcony roof replacement at Walnut Towers

  • $35,000 for new floors in corridors

  • $60,000 for maintenance to a heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and cooling unit

  • $20,000 for a replacement trash compactor




    On the Web:

    Federal government's stimulus tracking site:

    www.recovery.gov

    Maryland's stimulus tracking site:

    statestat.maryland.gov/recovery.asp

    Maryland Association of Counties stimulus tracking site:

    www.mdcounties.org/legislative/AFRRA.cfm

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