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Carroll pins hopes on stimulus funds

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Hoping that federal stimulus funds might trickle down to Carroll County, the Public Service Authority made a cascade of decisions Feb. 9 on water and sewer projects.

One of the goals of the federal stimulus package is creating jobs through "shovel-ready" projects.

Authority member David Hutchins — fresh from visits with federal and state legislators in Washington, D.C., and Richmond — said nobody knew yet how the federal funds would be disbursed.

That includes federal representatives of the Twin Counties. "I'm not sure they knew how this stimulus package was going to break out any more than we do," Hutchins said.

There's a belief that much of the funds would come to localities through the federal Rural Development agency, but the state will probably get some of the money, too, he continued.

So, county representatives also met with state officials.

"We figured out one thing, because they told us that those who show up are those that get consideration," Hutchins said. "I don't think we know what's going to happen, but we know what will happen if we're not prepared."

Both the county supervisors and the authority have been proactive in trying to benefit from the stimulus package, he said. "We know how to not get anything from it and that's sit on our hands, and I don't think we've done that.”

County officials feel comfortable about the work they've done, but there are no guarantees in this matter, Hutchins said.

Plus, PSA Chairman Sam Dickson said, the county got a letter from the Virginia Office of Drinking Water, the agency from which officials think they're going to get a portion of the stimulus money.

"So we're going to be in line with them, also," the chairman said. "We're searching every avenue."

Based on his conversations with legislators, Hutchins said Feb. 22, George Washington's birthday, is the date to be in line by.

PSA Executive Director Ronald Newman briefly described a laundry list of recommended project approvals to position several water and sewer efforts for the federal cash infusion, if possible.

First up were the just-received bids for sewer construction at Interstate 77's Exit 19. Newman recommended the authority award construction to low bidder Ramey Inc. of Bethania, N.C.

The bid amount totaled about $1.152 million, he explained. Bid award is contingent on approval from Rural Development.

Also for Exit 19, the authority had received two bids for financing. Newman recommended the bid from National Bank as better for the PSA over the long term.

Moving on, Newman noted that Rural Development requires holding public hearings on all project for which localities intend to seek funding.

That had been done for most of the Carroll projects, but a water effort on Honeycutt Dam Road and a sewer project on U.S. 52 in Cana still lacked public hearings.

Newman recommended setting the public hearings for a PSA meeting scheduled for Feb. 23 at 9 a.m.

"Just to catch up with the other projects," as Dickson put it.

For Exit 1 water and sewer to be eligible for federal funding, the county has to get its information on the project to Rural Development, Newman said. He asked for the authority members to consider filing a funding application not only for the Exit 1 work, but also the Fancy Gap infrastructure project, Honeycutt Dam water and Cana sewer.

Next, Newman asked for authorization to send in applications to the Virginia Health Department for several water projects, including Exit 1, Fancy Gap, parts of the regional water project and Honeycutt Dam.

"Back to what Mr. Dickson was talking about a moment ago with the health department sending us that letter — we're going to have our hand out," Newman said. "Whoever's got the money, we want it."

By the same token, he asked for authorization to go for any grants that might apply. "And we'd like the authority to beg wherever possible."

The PSA also needed a preliminary engineering report for the Cana sewer project, Newman said.

After these and other approval requests had been listed, Hutchins made a motion to accepted Ramey's construction bid for Exit 19 sewer work, contingent on available funding. That got unanimous approval.

Then Hutchins also made a motion to get financing from National Bank. That was approved unanimously, too.

Finally, all the remaining project requests were approved unanimously on a motion by PSA Member Jeanette Dalton.

As part of trying to secure funding, the authority decided to rescind a motion made at January's meeting. At that time, the authority awarded a construction bid for the water and sewer projects at Exit 1, contingent on funding.

The bid is good until March 6, so that gives the county officials more time to work on securing the funding and still accept the bid from Clark Brothers.

PSA Member Manus McMillian made the motion, and it was approved unanimously.