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Township manager writes Obama asking for stimulus money

April 07, 2009|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. -- Washington Township (Pa.) Manager Mike Christopher claims the federal stimulus allocations do little to help local government, and he's written a letter to President Obama saying so.

His major complaint is that state and federal regulations prevent townships from starting roads projects as quickly as the president and Congress want.

National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) assessments alone are "extensive and expensive," Christopher said.

"They usually take two or three years to get approved," he said, adding that localized controls like Soil Conservation District reviews should suffice.

The township manager used the portion of Washington Township Boulevard between Pa. 997 and Tomstown Road as an example. The planned road would extend 700 feet through an existing cornfield and correct a troublesome intersection nearby.

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The NEPA work for that portion of road costs $100,000 to $200,000, Christopher said.

"To construct the road costs less than that," he said.

In his letter, which was also sent to three members of Congress, Christopher asked for a new stimulus package with money for municipalities. He scoffed at the percentage of stimulus money that was targeted for infrastructure improvements and how it was distributed to state efforts.

"Local construction and infrastructure improvements translate into jobs and work immediately at the local level," Christopher said. Townships employ local workers and buy supplies from the area, he said.

Similar frustrations are being expressed across the state, according to Elam Herr, assistant executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors.

"Part of the problem with what is being required of local governments is there's a short window when the application has to be submitted, the money committed and the construction started," Herr said.

Municipal leaders often know what projects they perceive as important, but they haven't already paid to engineer projects and obtain rights of way without having the money set aside for construction. Without the preparation done, they are not in a position to submit applications quickly enough, Herr said.

And just because money is available doesn't mean applicants will receive it, he said.

The townships organization, which works with 1,455 Pennsylvania townships, is hosting four workshops this week to provide more information about stimulus money, including "how to get it and how to spend it," Herr said.

"Everybody's talking about it," Christopher said. "Nobody at the municipal level is getting any help."

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