Stimulus funding barely a pulse for city
The city of Grand Junction has had only limited success in obtaining millions of dollars in federal stimulus money, although the bulk of its applications still are pending.
City officials have applied for nearly $40 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $787 million economic stimulus package approved by Congress earlier this year. To date, the city has been awarded $1.9 million and been denied $8.4 million. Another $29.5 million in applications are wending their way through the system.
The funding requests that are pending include $20 million for construction of the 29 Road overpass and new intersection with the Interstate 70 Business Loop, $7.5 million to build a new downtown fire station and a neighborhood fire station and $2 million to convert methane to compressed natural gas at the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant.
City leaders had hoped to secure a Department of Homeland Security grant for the fire stations, especially in light of last year’s failure of a $98 million sales-tax initiative that would have funded several new public safety buildings. Although the department has until Sept. 30, 2010, to announce the balance of the awards of the $210 million that was originally available, it appears unlikely the city will receive any money, according to city auditor Elizabeth Tice.
That’s because the city didn’t make the first round of funding awards last month, when 80 percent of the $210 million was distributed. Tice said the federal government gave highest consideration to fire departments in communities that had the largest increases in unemployment rates between 2007 and 2008.
During that time, Mesa County was in the midst of its energy boom, when jobless rates were at historic lows.
Tice is more optimistic about the city’s chances of securing grants through its other two requests.
The 29 Road project, which is seeking funding through the so-called Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, is under construction now. The city and Mesa County, which are splitting the overall $32 million cost, broke the project into three phases so local contractors could begin work immediately.
“This is the epitome of a shovel-ready project,” Tice said.
There are other things working in the city and county’s favor. The grant criteria require funding to be distributed in a geographically equal manner. And the project was one of seven out of 30 state road projects endorsed by Gov. Bill Ritter and the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Tice said she has hopes for funding for the Persigo project because it could serve as a model for other communities.