Where Mesa County’s stimulus dollars go
More than $50 million has been promised to various agencies in Mesa County through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
A new breakdown of stimulus projects and funding by county shows the money will pay for road construction, school programs, extended unemployment benefits, energy efficient remodeling and putting more police officers on the beat. Mesa County’s project list is available at Colorado’s headquarters for the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, a state Web portal found at http://www.colorado.gov/recovery.
Two Grand Junction businesses, gravel and asphalt company Elam Construction and asphalt plant United Companies of Mesa County, garnered two contracts apiece paid for in part by the recovery act. United Companies has been hired to widen lanes on Interstate 70 at Palisade Exit 42 and chip seal part of U.S. Highway 36. Elam earned contracts to resurface parts of U.S. Highway 285 and U.S. Highway 160 with asphalt.
Projects on U.S. Highway 6&50 and Colorado Highway 340 are budgeted but have not yet started.
In addition to paved road projects, the recovery act will cover trails in the great outdoors. Colorado National Monument used $58,000 to renew Monument Canyon, Canyon Rim, No Thoroughfare and CCC trails this summer. The Bureau of Land Management will make trailhead improvements in the Black Ridge Wilderness Area, repair an access route at Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Range, repair parts of the Book Cliff Shooting Range, restore habitats in McInnis Canyons, reconstruct a campground at Mud Springs and make improvements in the Dominguez Escalante National Conservation Area. The bureau plans to begin those projects next year, BLM spokeswoman Erin Curtis said.
The recovery act has money to help job seekers in Mesa County, including a $241,308 award to Wagner Peyser & Reemployment Services and $487,670 on top of what the county’s Workforce Center receives annually for job training. Workforce Center Supervisor Gilbert Lujan said the extra money is especially helpful now, because the original funding amount for 2009 was based on 2008 unemployment numbers.
“It’s been a great help, although a good portion of it was used just to backfill what was in our original allocation. It helped us continue to serve our customers seamlessly,” Lujan said.
The ARRA also paid $367,028 to provide 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to 176 Mesa County residents, $2.47 million to increase unemployment benefits for 6,643 residents by $25 a week, and $7.59 million to offer emergency unemployment compensation for up to 20 weeks to 2,011 unemployed county residents.
The recovery act includes $1.3 million for the Grand Junction Police Department to hire five new employees. The hiring process is under way, but no new officers will be hired for at least 30 to 40 days, Deputy Chief Troy Smith said.
“We feel very fortunate. It was the largest award in the state of Colorado” for a police department, Smith said. The money will pay for the new officers’ salaries and benefits.
The Police Department will pool $254,000 in justice grant dollars with Mesa County to improve 911 call center service and use a $100,00 grant to help purchase $7.5 million worth of radios. The grants will operate as a refund once the items have been purchased.