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County’s representatives take a look at what’s needed, what’s available

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By Alice Du Pont

In anticipation of economic stimulus funds, Gadsden County officials presented the first draft of its package to the Legislative Delegation last Thursday evening. Sen. Al Lawson, along with representatives Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda and Alan Williams, listened as Gadsden County Commission Chairman Eugene Lamb outlined the proposed infrastructure projects the county needs funded.

"If funding is available, we are requesting that you do whatever you can to help us," Lamb said.

The Federal Economic Stimulus Package for infrastructure is intended to jump start state and local governments, upgrade infrastructure and create jobs. Lawson said that while the federal plan is still under discussion, counties must be ready to take advantage of whatever money the state of Florida will receive. The Gadsden County package, which was presented to the delegation, included requests from all six municipalities in the county and the county’s school board, with each group collectively contributing projects.

The projects were broken down into road and bridge repair, other transportation projects, water/sewer infrastructure, other infrastructure, energy and climate, energy and climate efficiency and most vulnerable.

"The central focus of the package is to highlight the immediate infrastructure needs of Gadsden County governmental bodies a a whole. We understand that the process of receiving the stimulus funding is competitive and we decided that the collective approach would be more beneficial to us. We have worked cooperatively to pull this package for the benefit of all of our residents," Lamb said.

Lawson suggested that all projects have cost predictions assigned before the package is presented. But the package was completed with projected costs as well as the number of people who would be employed. Williams also suggested that "green" projects also be identified.

"Projects that are environmentally safe will get extra points," he said, adding, "Projects should be shovel-ready, meaning they should be ready to get started in between 60 to 120 days."

The total amount requested by the county in stimulus funds is $182,494,100 for 91 projects for an estimated 2,218 additional jobs.

Lamb asked the delegation to look into sponsoring a special bill that will extend the license of the hospital for 24 months. Lawson said the hospital has the backing of all of the legislators, Gov. Charlie Crist and both regional hospitals.

"Everyone wants you to get the hospital back open," Lawson said.