Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hoorah for the Croydon Selectmen!

The Croydon selectmen in what appears to be in their infinite wisdom have not boarded the spend our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren into perpetual debt bandwagon. Thank you Croydon Selectmen.

The following piece appears in the Union Leader. Readers will have to visit the Union Leader website to download the wish list.

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for our readers.

A $2.4 billion wish list
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
19 hours ago

If cities and towns across the state got everything they wanted from the federal stimulus package, the bill would tally nearly $2.4 billion.

Enough to buy every New Hampshire resident a McDonald's Big Mac and an apple pie every day for a year.

In their ideal world, officials in Hampton would use $197 million in federal stimulus money to replace the Hampton River bridge, construct new public works and district court buildings, and make repairs to the town's ocean seawall, among other things.

Manchester wouldn't mind receiving a check for $153 million for 93 items and projects, whether it be building a new elementary school or something more mundane: $14,000 to replace a supervisor's vehicle at the local bus company.

And then there's Marlow, population 769.

Officials in that southwest New Hampshire town would spend $5,000 for a new roof for town hall, the smallest single item on a wish list of requested projects from communities around the state.

"We'll probably have people, including the selectmen, up on the roof doing it," said Jacqui Fay, the town's executive administrator.

The town would like a million dollars total, half of that for a new fire station.

More than 100 communities are asking for the stimulus funds -- with a total amount equivalent to $1,811 for every state resident, according to the list compiled by the New Hampshire Local Government Center in Concord.

"It's easy to get in line when they're passing money out," said Guy Santagate, city manager for the town of Claremont, calling the long log of wishful items a "Christmas list."

Who and how much?

No one knows how much money the state ultimately will get or which communities will win the stimulus lottery.

The federal government will funnel much of the stimulus aid through state agencies, which in turn will award grants and loans to communities. Although ballpark estimates place New Hampshire's share at somewhere around $300 million, not all of that will go out to local communities. The Senate and House need to merge their separate stimulus bills into one compromise package that President Barack Obama can sign.

Officials from local municipalities and agencies crowded an auditorium at the state Department of Environmental Services in Concord on Friday morning to learn more about applying for economic stimulus funding. (SHAWNE K. WICKHAM)

"However we can get it, we'll work with whomever we have to," said Portsmouth's city manager, John Bohenko. "I'm sure there's probably not enough money to go around for the amount of money requested."

Laconia's city manager, Eileen Cabanel, said she has no idea what the odds are on nearly $13.7 million in projects, including her top priority: $1 million for reconstructing the Weirs Beach boardwalk, damaged last August during a heavy rainstorm.

"I think there's so little information out there on what truly is going to pass and how much is going to filter its way down to cities and towns," she said. "I don't think the President of the United States (knows), so far be it for me to say how much it's going to be."

But how much does she hope to get?

"All of it," she laughed.

Major projects

According to a fact sheet released by the White House last week, the stimulus plan for New Hampshire would create or save 16,700 jobs over the next two years and provide funding to modernize at least 28 schools.

Requests include many big-ticket items that have been on the state's radar for years, including $300 million for commuter rail linking Nashua and Manchester and $401 million for improvements to the Spaulding Turnpike.

Nearly two-thirds of all requested dollars in New Hampshire are tied to the 39 most expensive projects, each costing at least $10 million.

More than 15 communities are looking to upgrade or build wastewater treatment plants -- and the stimulus bill might help them out.

Historically, the state has covered 20 to 30 percent of a wastewater project's cost through loan forgiveness, but grants for new projects are currently frozen because of the state's budget problems, according to Harry Stewart, director of the state's water division.

The stimulus bill could make such loans "come with a 25 percent forgiveness or 50 percent forgiveness or 75 percent forgiveness," Stewart said.

Greater Manchester

Manchester initially drew up a list of $195.5 million in projects, from new lockers at McDonough School to new artificial turf at Manchester High School West. That list was pared to about $153 million for projects that would be shovel-ready in the next 12 to 24 months, according to Sean Thomas, senior policy adviser for Mayor Frank Guinta. The city estimates more than 1,300 jobs would be created, not counting the school projects.

The Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, which had $12.5 million in projects in the city's list, also could receive stimulus funds from the Federal Aviation Administration, Thomas said.

Londonderry has all its hopes on one project: the Pettengill Road economic development project just south of the airport, according to Town Manager David Caron.

The town has been hoping to stimulate economic development on about 1,000 acres of industrial land, most of it privately owned, once the airport access road is completed, Caron said. The $12.3 million plan would reconstruct Pettengill Road and extend the main sewer and water lines.

"This project aligns perfectly with the goals of the stimulus package," he said. "We can be on the ground in 60 to 90 days."

Taxes and utility rates

Concord's city manager, Thomas Aspell Jr., said the federal money should help communities do projects without hitting ratepayers or taxpayers.

Without the federal stimulus help, "what we're going to have to do is raise taxes and raise sewer and water rates," he said. "The way I looked at it is, you want to put money in people's pockets to spend into the economy."

In Littleton, officials are hoping stimulus money will help pay for the second phase of the Main Street reconstruction project. Town manager Chuck Connell said funding for the project failed at last year's town meeting, "but if the President wants to come in with a peach basket full of money, we're ready to go."

Also ready to go is the reconstruction of Saranac Street.

"It's engineered, and we're ready on the environmental permitting; what we need is money, honey," Connell said.

Claremont already is using its own money -- about $10 million -- in a public-private partnership to rehab four mill buildings. About 160 construction workers are on the job, and private developers are chipping in about $35 million.

"Everyone wants a piece of the action, but we think those communities that show a real partnership with the federal government by investing some of their own time, effort and money should get credit when (federal officials) look over what projects they're going to fund," Santagate said. "I hope we get our share and spend it wisely."

Shawne K. Wickham of the New Hampshire Sunday News staff contributed to this report.

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