Thompson was in Washington, D.C., last week attending a series of workshops and seminars sponsored by the National League of Cities. A major topic of discussion was the $787 billion economic recovery package and how it will be disbursed. Some of the funds will be allocated directly by the federal government, especially where the larger cities are concerned. In the case of smaller cities and towns, Thompson said the distribution may be more of a combination of direct allocation and competitive grants awarded through state agencies and programs such as Community Development Block Grants.
“They’re still not sure how much the states will get; they’re still ironing out distribution to state and local governments, closing any loopholes in how the money can be used,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk about a regional approach to distributing the money. They say the larger cities with projects that affect large areas and large numbers of people will probably get the money directly.
“For smaller cities like Union, the money would be issued primarily by the state through competitive grant programs like CDBG,” he said. “In some cases we would have to compete with other cities for energy efficiency grants, public safety grants and transportation grants.”
Thompson said this means projects that affect only one community will probably not get funded. Projects like the proposed Jonesville-Union sewer that can benefit both communities and surrounding areas of the county have a better shot at being approved.
“We were told that it has to be a regional project, otherwise don’t apply,” he said. “We chose the Jonesville-Union sewer line because it’s shovel ready and it’s effecting a larger area.”
The $3.7 million project is designed to expand sewer service in the northern section of the U.S. 176 Corridor to help attract industry to the area. The project includes construction of a pump station and force main in the Rocky Creek area ($2,050,000); a new pump station south of Forest Street on U.S. 176 ($1,300,000); and the extension of water and sewer services to the Trakas site where the new county industrial park will be built ($350,000). Construction of the connection is expected to generate50 jobs, half of them in Union County.
Earlier this year, Utility Director Joe Nichols went to Washington with a delegation of Piedmont Municipal Power Agency members to meet with congressional leaders about local infrastructure projects. Nichols said that information the city received showed that recovery package sets aside $4 billion for sewer projects $40 million which will be allocated to South Carolina through its State Revolving Fund. Thompson, however, said the information he received in Washington suggests the amount of money available for sewer projects may be increased.
Nichols also pointed out that the allocation to the State Revolving Fund is not the only potential source of funding for the project. Part of the recovery funds are being distributed to federal agencies such as Environmental Protection Agency and Nichols said these funds might be available for projects such as the sewer line.