Federal Stimulus Funds Disappoint Commissioners

SNOW HILL – Hopes of infusing cash into the Worcester County economy through federal stimulus funding have largely been dashed, with the county getting little direct money, and none for requested capital improvement projects, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

“I can tell you who’s not getting it and that’s us,” said county administrator Gerry Mason.

A total of $10.3 million of ARRA money will be spent on Worcester County, but only $1.5 million will be put into county hands.

County staff assembled the report after a citizen requested a stimulus funding update at the public budget hearing early this month.

“I guess the message is we were really shortchanged in this,” said Worcester County Commissioner Judy Boggs. “What we did get we didn’t get any say over.”

“We certainly didn’t get a whole lot,” said County Commission President Louise Gulyas.

The schools will get $699,000 in Title I funding, given to schools where at least 40 percent of students come from low-income families, and $797,000 for special education. That money cannot be used to replace county funds for existing programs, but must be used for new initiatives. 

The Worcester County Sheriff will receive $41,000 to purchase laptop computers.

Some funds will go directly to towns, with Ocean City receiving $97,000 for public safety and Pocomoke City receiving $11,000 in Justice Assistance grants. Pocomoke City will also receive $500,000 for enhanced nutrient removal technology.

“Most of the money is being spent for the county by the state,” said county budget officer Kathy Whited.

Road resurfacing funds from the state, $2.3 million, will be awarded direct to contractors.

About $1.1 million will go toward bus replacement and support vehicles for Shore Transit, which will also get $325,000 for facility and equipment upgrades.

About $1.3 million will go to a handful of county roads for resurfacing and safety improvements, said Public Works Director John Tustin.

The state will also contribute $1.3 million for enhanced teacher retirement as well as $415,000 in other educational aid.

A community service block grant of $170,000 has also been awarded through the state and $590,000 is set for Shore Up home weatherization work.

The state also shows $147,000 in energy investment funds, not yet allocated to a project.

The state’s workforce investment includes $144,000 for dislocated workers, with another $239,000 for youth workers, and $96,000 for adults.

Worcester County submitted five “shovel ready” projects for consideration, a total of $19 million in costs, this winter.

The five projects were the replacement of the Mystic Harbor wastewater plant ($8.8 million), the cap and closure of the Berlin rubble fill ($2.4 million), phase II of the Route 50 service road ($4 million), another water tower in the Mystic Harbor area ($1.4 million) and the Riddle Farm to Ocean Pines water system interconnection ($400,000).

The commissioners also listed four future projects, not ready to start, for potential consideration:  a third Ocean Pines water tank, the rehabilitation of the Oyster Harbor water plant, the interconnection of the Landings and Assateague Point water systems and the Showell Elementary School sewer pump station, which will cost about $4 million total.