Thursday, March 5, 2009

South Suburban "Shovel Ready" Projects

Stimulus Watch provides a breakdown of "shovel ready" projects eligible for federal stimulus dollars. These are defined as:

the "shovel-ready" projects the mayors of this state submitted in the 2008 U.S. Conference of Mayors report.

The shocking thing about this report is not who is on it, but who is missing from it. There were no projects submitted for that report by the villages of Hazel Crest or Dolton, County Club Hills, Markham, Steger, Robbins or Flossmoor. Mayors in Illinois made a request totalling $3 billion, representing all the requests in the state listed in the report. But the villages of County Club Hills, Dolton, Flossmoor, Hazel Crest, Markham, Robbins or Steger were absent from these requests.

Ford Heights (pop: 3,227) had an estimated median household income in 2007 of $20,031 (Illinois average was $54,124) according to the website Robbins (pop: 6,312) had an estimated median household income in 2007 of $27,637. I suspect that these two villages (like Flossmoor) aren't members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Markham (pop: 12,190) had an estimated median household income in 2007 of $47,608. Steger (pop: 10,458) had an estimated median household income in 2007 of $49,534. All these villages were below the Illinois statewide average, and all of these could have easily benefited from stimulus dollars being used in their communities.

Dolton (pop: 24,032) had an estimated median household income in 2007 of $54,965 (slightly more than the Illinois average of $54,124). Hazel Crest (pop: 14,164) had an estimated median household income in 2007 of $57,891. Both of these villages have seen brighter days and suffer from neglect of existing infrastructure. Country Club Hills (pop: 16,764) is more fortunate, with an estimated median household income in 2007 of $66,047 and Flossmoor (pop: 9,353) had an estimated median household income in 2007 of $107,850, but neither village had infrastructure projects in mind for the report.

According to Stimulus Watch, the report includes $49,865,000 in project requests from Blue Island for 25 projects. Click on the link will provide more information about those project requests. Richton Park has requested $48,047,000 for 9 projects. South Holland has made $29,911,340 in requests for 19 projects. Homewood has asked for $22,000,000 for its Water and Sewer Infrastructure Rehabilitation project in the neighbor by Walt's. Glenwood has requested $19,350,000 for 28 projects in its community.

Calumet City wants $12,504,000 for 7 projects. Olympia Fields has $12,200,000 worth of projects in 16 different areas. Chicago Heights is requesting $11,674,165 for 27 projects, according to the Conference of Mayors report. Chicago Heights has also asked for $30 million in federal stimulus dollars for its proposed wind farm at a dormant landfill. Tinley Park asked for $10,272,105 to fund 13 projects.

Rounding out the requests for the South Suburbs in the 2008 report, Harvey put in for $5,120,000 for 13 projects. Lynwood asked for $5,825,000 for 15 projects. Park Forest wants $3,757,000 for 5 projects. And Sauk Village requested $3,350,000 to fund 5 projects there.

While you could argue that no one could have foreseen the economic meltdown that has resulted in the federal stimulus package, that doesn't exactly explain why the communities of County Club Hills, Dolton, Flossmoor, Hazel Crest, Markham, Robbins or Steger were not included in the Conference of Mayors report. Most, if not all, communities have a list of projects that they would like federal help on, so you have to wonder why County Club Hills, Dolton, Flossmoor, Hazel Crest, Markham, Robbins or Steger weren't submitting projects in this routine request. I called the villages of Dolton, Flossmoor, Hazel Crest and Markham to ask why they were omitted from this report. I asked them for an explanation as to why their villages weren't included in the requests detailed by the 2008 Conference of Mayors report.

I talked to Joseph Bertrand and Robert Palmer, who is the Village Manager, from Hazel Crest, and they were surprised to hear that they didn't have any shovel-ready projects in the report. "There are a lot of reports out there," Palmer told me. He also told me that Hazel Crest submitted requests to the Mayors Caucus of Chicago about a month ago and that they had just had their transportation meeting on Tuesday where Hazel Crest had made requests for transportation dollars. He said he knew about the Stimulus Watch website, and didn't really have an explanation for why Hazel Crest wasn't on it. "We were told we had two weeks to get it back to South Suburban Mayors and Managers," Palmer said.

He guessed that they had about 8-10 projects ready to go (he didn't say ready to go, but that's what the stimulus funding requires). Palmer said there was a lot of creek stabilization and sewer lining in what they believed would be eligible for federal funding under the stimulus package.

I also talked to Bridget Wachtel, the City Manager for Flossmoor, who gave me a very simple explanation as to why Flossmoor wasn't included. Flossmoor is not a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, so it couldn't have been on this list. Nonetheless, we did talk about the steps the village was taking to receive stimulus dollars. "We are pursuing stimulus dollars," Wachtel told me. "We have begun to register programs through the recovery website," she said.

"You have to have a project that fits into an existing program and it has to be shovel ready," she explained. She expressed some frustration with the conflict between the definition of "shovel ready" and the need for a funding source for the village to take the project to the shovel ready stage. Flossmoor has a "slew of programs in a capitol plan," but that doesn't mean they are eligible or shovel ready.

Wachtel explained that Flossmoor was "struggling to find where we can fit in" with regards to this new source of federal funds. She mentioned the Illinois Public Energy Agency low interest loan program that helped fund the first three phases of Flossmoor's sanitary sewer rehab. "That's where the $27 surcharge on your water bill goes," she said. They are thinking that perhaps the fourth phase of the sewer rehab project could come under the stimulus package. That way, 50% of project would be funded through stimulus dollars, and -- of the remaining 50% -- half (or 25%) would be eligible for a no interest loan and the other half would be eligible for a low interest loan. But "can we meet the deadline? Can we logistically meet those deadlines?"

I spoke with the offices of the mayor in Markam and Dolton, but neither office had anything to say about this. They took a message; no one called back.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well Sauk Village why don't you ask for $$ so your water lines stop breaking?
All you do is repair,repair, & repair.And the same ones are never fixed.