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|Parish preps for stimulus money|
Ouachita Parish Police Jury engineer Don Harrison encouraged the police jury Tuesday to be ready to proceed with any projects funded through the economic stimulus package President Obama signed this week.
That's because Harrison anticipates other governmental agencies throughout the state may not be ready to begin projects, and those governing bodies would not be in position to accept stimulus funding. The stimulus plan Obama signed says projects will be funded if the projects are "shovel ready" with a few months.
So Ouachita Parish could be in line to receive even more federal dollars if the police jury has projects that meet the requirements for funding through the stimulus package, according to Harrison.
"We need to not only be prepared to spend what we know is coming to us now, but also have some backup projects ready so we can step in and take advantage in the event that funds are rolled over," Harrison said. "This (funding) schedule is so rigid and very, very difficult, and if you aren't right on top of this, you will not be able to satisfy the schedule."
"A lot of people, even though they may think they can meet this schedule, it's going to be difficult," he said. "So there will be funds that will be turned back in."
Earlier this month, the police jury approved a list of projects totaling $101.2 million for consideration under the economic stimulus plan. Harrison believes the Monroe/West Monroe area will receive at least $7 million in highway funding from the stimulus package.
"At this point, the primary funding I think the police jury will be in line to participate in is the highway funds," Harrison said. "Basically, the funding is coming to the state through DOTD (Department of Transportation and Development) and it has to come through a program that channels money to local governments. The only program that does that, as far as channeling highway funds, is the Urban Systems Program."
The $7 million for Ouachita Parish would be given to the Ouachita Council of Governments, which represents the cities of Monroe and West Monroe and Ouachita Parish Police Jury.
Numerous parish road projects were included on the list the police jury submitted for funding with stimulus monies.
The top road projects on this list include Good Hope Road, Dellwood Drive, Louisiana Avenue, Vancil Road, Green Road, Laird Street and Hardley Street. Those road projects would cost $5.4 million.
"There are more on this list that we may be able to get funded, and accomplished, but we want to make sure we have enough to pull from and take advantage of all opportunities possible," Harrison said.
The road projects in question are ones where some work already has been completed, Harrison said. That would include some survey and engineering work.
"These projects typically would be in a much better position to be ready to go to bid quickly," Harrison said. "We feel like these could be implemented the quickest."
To advance the road projects through the Urban System Program, the police jury would be required to pay engineering fees. Money saved by the parish by using federal dollars for road projects could be applied to the engineering fees.
For example, if Good Hope Road can be completed using federal dollars, Harrison said, that would free up the construction funds the police jury already budgeted for the project.
"If you combine the construction cost already allocated in your 2008 program for Good Hope Road, plus the money budgeted in the 2009 Urban Systems Program (for Good Hope Road), that makes up the engineering fees to do all of these streets," Harrison said referring to the top road projects the police jury wants to complete with federal stimulus dollars.
The city of West Monroe plans to submit Montgomery Street for funding with stimulus money. The Montgomery Street project would cost $4.29 million.
Harrison told the police jury that if "West Monroe is going to apply for Montgomery Street at $4.29 million, we wanted the police jury to have an equal dollar value of projects in that same priority list. Even though that exceeds $7 million, that's what we felt should be submitted to the state."
To equal $4.3 million, the parish plans to submit its top four road projects already on its priority list. These projects are Good Hope Road, the two segments of Dellwood Drive, and Louisiana Avenue.
"Those will be recommended as the top four projects, followed by Montgomery Street, and then after that, Vancil and Green roads," Harrison said. "This will make up the $8 million. That's what we recommended to OCOG for approval and adoption."
Regarding any proposed road projects from the city of Monroe, Harrison said, "They (Monroe) will just have to make the case to OCOG that they can be ready and what their cost is and how it would impact this list."
The road projects must be approved by OCOG before they are submitted to the state.
OCOG plans to meet Monday, Feb. 23, to review the projects and make a decision.