Stimulus money sought, found

Friday, March 20, 2009

Federal stimulus money will pay for reconstruction of State Route 373 (Mooresville Highway) from Interstate 65 toward Lewisburg, according to state Sen. Bill Ketron who represents Marshall County.

Meanwhile, several leaders in Marshall County have said that meetings in Nashville are being held today for local government leaders and their consultants to find out how the stimulus package can pay for local projects.

And on Thursday there was a seminar in Lewisburg on how money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 could be applied to insurance benefits made available for workers after they've lost their jobs.

Another program funded by stimulus money is Connect TN, according to Ketron who sponsored legislation for statewide cable TV franchises. Connect TN is to improve Intenet connections. It and related programs funded by the federal government have been compared to rural electrification.

"Broadband is a huge chunk of the stimulus program," Ketron said in a telephone interview when he was asked whether the Mooresville Highway project would be funded by the stimulus package.

"Oh yes, because it's shovel ready," the senator said, "What money that comes in from the stimulus package will go to what's shovel ready," or projects that are already planned, ready for construction and just waiting for funding.

Since the Tennessee Department of Transportation is scheduled to open bids on May 1 for the road widening, federal stimulus money will be spent on that instead of state money, Ketron confirmed.

"That's correct," he said. "The money we projected to start that project can be moved to another location somewhere in the state."

Within 90 days, the state is to receive $500 million, he continued.

As for the program to extend broadband, or high speed Internet service, the Murfreesboro Republican explained that some $4.7 billion is to be distributed nationally by by the national Telecommunications and Information Administration "to build out broadband in unserved and under-served areas for public safety and training and education."

Other utility systems that are to benefit from the federal economic stimulus package are water and wastewater projects.

"Stimulus money is being implemented in the state revolving loan program," said Greg Davenport, a consulting engineer serving Lewisburg's water utility.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is hosting two meetings today in Nashville where consultants like Davenport and Chapel Hill Administrator Mike Hatten hope to find out how stimulus money can be applied to projects in their municipalities.

One project in Lewisburg that's a potential target for stimulus funding is a water tank planned for the city's Business Park on the north side of Mooresville Highway, Davenport said, hoping to get information today from TDEC.

Hatten has said he hoped to be at the seminar today so he might realize how stimulus money could help pay for another extension of the town's sewer that's been installed to areas on the north side of Chapel Hill.

The most recent sewer extension is north along Horton Highway to Eagleville Pike. Plans are being developed to extend pipes to Crutcher Road and then east.

Thursday, Elton Coleman, a past president and CEO of Kantus Corp., and Mike Dodd of the Employee Retirement Income Security Office spoke at a luncheon hosted by Lewisburg's Economic Development office. The program co-sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development was on "The Stimulus Package as it relates to COBRA."

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows workers to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for them and their families who have lost health benefits. They have the right to choose limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.