Local officials propose regional stiumulus package; $183 million targeted in county

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By Angye Morrison

Gadsden County officials gathered with representatives from throughout the region last week to lay out a plan for federal stimulus dollars they hope will come to the Big Bend.

Tallahassee Mayor John Marks, along with county commission chairmen Bryan Desloge (Leon County), Eugene Hall (Jefferson) and Howard Kessler (Wakulla), along with Douglas Croley, vice chairman of the Gadsden County Commission, gathered with educational representatives and representatives from Gadsden County's municipalities to propose a $1.1 billion economic stimulus package that would, if funded, create 15, 931 jobs in the region.

Of that $1.1 billion, 91 projects in Gadsden County total $183 million and 2,324 jobs. The projects fall into the following categories: school modernization, $2,632,000 and 78 jobs; broadband technology, $3.8 million and 95 jobs; public parks, $4.88 million and 82 jobs; transportation, $54,719,906 and 812 jobs; public housing, $3,125,000 and 48 jobs; water infrastructure, $24,828,200 and 421 jobs; science/research, $15,700,000 and 94 jobs; education/training, $450,000 and 35 jobs; energy, $16,750,000 and 104 jobs; protecting the vulnerable/health, $19, 350,000 and 165 jobs; law enforcement, $28,800,000 and 216 jobs; and public safety, $8,170,000 and 174 jobs.

Specific projects include a bypass in Quincy, which would cost $35 million and provide 400 jobs. The new roadway would divert heavy commercial traffic traveling from Georgia to the North and Florida Gulf Coast to the south, away from the downtown area. Also in Quincy, $3.8 million would provide 95 jobs and the completion of a fiber optic network circle connecting all schools, local governments, lbiraries, hospitals and senior citizens, as well as residents. The preliminary infrastructure for this is already in place, with the exception of aerial placement. As a part of an energy efficiency project in Quincy, $16 million would provide 75 jobs and create a Good Neighbor Energy Assistance Program, to help elderly and low income residents within the city limits to reduce energy use by improving the energy efficiency in their homes.

In Chattahoochee, $1,307,000 would mean 35 jobs as a part of the Crawfish Island project. Crawfish Island is a subdivision within the town's city limits, consisting of about 67 homes. The subdivision has one entrance/exit, which crosses a CSX active rail track. The roadway needs to be improved and bridge access built to the subdivision.

In Midway, $3,637,000 would mean 198 jobs as road improvements to increase pedestrian safety and community appeal take the forefront. The construction would include sideway construction, the addition of bike lanes, and traffic calming and lighting.

In Greensboro and Gretna, the funding would pave the way for water and sewer projects. A total of $605,100 and 12 jobs would mean a transite water main replacement in Greensboro. Transite is a material, which contains asbestos, manufactured by the Johns-Mansfield Corporation. The material is buried beneath some of the streets in the town, and it has become fragile. The trunkline carries the potable water for the town, and about 8,050 linear feet of the transite water main needs to be replaced. The streets would have to be resurfaced after the pipeline work is completed.

In Gretna, $3 million would mean 80 jobs, with 60 being permanent, as part of the State Road 12/Interstate 10 water line extension project. This project can begin within 120 days of receipt of funding, and will allow for the development of two hotels and an entertainment facility. The water and sewer lines would be extended 3.3 miles to the Highway 12/I-10 interchange.

In Havana, $2.1 million would mean 60 jobs and a 10,000 square foot addition to the existing municipal building, which would be used by the Havana Police Department. The additional space would provide safer and securer holding cells, a training room, dispatch center, weapons storage room and increased office space.

Countywide, $600,000 would mean 18 jobs for a full retrofit of the roofing at Havana Elementary School and the installation of new aluminum walkway covers, and $2.1 million would mean 100 jobs and a new jail facility for the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office, which would provide the GCSO the capability to separate male, female and juvenile prisoners.

In addition, $16 million would provide 130 jobs for the county commission for the renovation and retrofit of the Gadsden Community Hospital, where construction is already underway.

Other projects that are considered shovel-ready are also part of the package, and will also provide additional jobs and improvements.