Area leaders work to obtain stimulus dollars

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By Angye Morrison

Gadsden County Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Doug Croley (Dist. 2) spoke to Havana Town Council members last week, requesting $2,500 to help hire an advocate to aid the county in obtaining federal stimulus dollars for the county.

Croley and other members of the Tallahassee Capital Region Economic Stimulus partners, which unveiled earlier this year a regional stimulus package proposal that totaled $1.1 billion and would bring 16,000 jobs to the area, are speaking to city and county officials throughout the region, seeking funding for shovel-ready projects throughout the region.

In Gadsden County, the regional package proposed $183 million in projects for Gadsden County and a total of 2,300 jobs.

Coley’s request to the Havana council, as well as to the leaders of the county’s other municipalities, the Gadsden County School District and the Gadsden County Board of Commissioners, was for a $2,500 contribution which, when combined for a total of $20,000, would help accomodate the hiring of an advocate or representative that could then travel to Washington, D. C. on behalf of the region.

The advocate’s fees would be shared by all of the participating counties. So far, Croley said, three municipalities and the county commissioners have agreed to participate in Gadsden County. Nicholas Thomas, Gadsden County clerk of courts, is holding the funds until the total amount needed from this county is collected and an agreement has been reached with an advocate.

The four counties involved in this regional effort, Croley said, are Leon, Gadsden, Wakulla and Jefferson.

The advocate would utilize a four-county inventory of shovel-ready projects which could be used by state and federal officials to “improve our chances to get part of the federal stimulus package,” Croley said.

Those projects include roads, bridges, utilities, school improvements, public safety improvements, energy, housing and medical needs. The list of projects was included as part of the regional proposal unveiled earlier this year.

Croley said the roads that should be listed as priority to be repaired using stimulus funds are those that were originally constructed in the 1940s and 1950s by the old Florida State Road Department, and turned over to the county in the early 1970s. He also pinpointed bridges from that same era as out of date and in need of repair or replacement.

According to Croley, several of the counties have agreed to hire former Tallahassee mayour Scott Maddox’s firm, Governance Inc., to work as advocate.

Croley said the advocate’s activities, if his suggestion is followed, will be monitored by a committee representing the various city managers, superintendent of schools and the county administrator.

“At a time when our unemployment rate is over 10 percent, I would like the citizens of Gadsden County to know that their municipalities, school board and county officials are trying to present a collective front in the regional effort to put people back to work by presenting economic stimulus projects to the state and federal authorities that will create jobs and provide long-term value to our country, state and nation.”