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City readies projects for funding with anticipated federal stimulus package

By Staff | Jan 22, 2009

As the United States Congress begins drafting legislation for a new economic stimulus package directed at the country’s infrastructure, cities, counties and states all over America are already spending their anticipated windfall – and the City of Sanibel is no exception.

Keeping with City Management’s record of staying ahead of the curve – already, city staff is taking the steps necessary to ensure that the city is prepared when the time arrives.

City Manager Judie Zimomra cautioned the Council that the legislation didn’t even exist in draft form yet.

“It’s premature to say what will be in any federal stimulus package,” she said, although assumptions point to funding for roads, bridges and other such infrastructure.

According to preliminary research by city staff, projects which have already gone through the design and permitting phases will be among the first to be considered for funding through the federal stimulus package.

“I believe the phrase is ‘shovel-ready’,” said Mayor Mick Denham.

City Public Works Director Gates Castle addressed the Council on the expenditure of funds that would speed at least one project through the design and permitting phase, so it would be among those considered for funding when the time comes. Replacement of a box culvert on Lindgren Boulevard is the first project on Castle’s wish list.

Replacement of the box culvert is already scheduled for 2010, said Castle.

“This would be funds that we’d be using anyway, for a project that’s already scheduled,” he explained. “We wouldn’t be losing anything, and if the funding doesn’t happen, we’ve already got the design plans in place for 2010.”

Armed with photographs of the aging culvert from all angles, Castle warned against imminent failure. “We made repairs two years ago, but cracks continue to appear,” he said. “The cracks have been sealed, but now we’re starting to see cracking on the deck of the culvert.”

Preliminary plans call for replacement with a taller, wider and deeper box culvert, which would be designed with the aid of an engineering consultant.

“That process takes about three months,” said Castle, adding that it was imperative to get approval for funding of the design phase of the project as soon as possible. “We can fast-track the process,” said Gates, We can get the plans and the specifications, and if money becomes available, we can do it this summer.”

Councilman Peter Pappas urged his fellow councilors to approve funding for the project’s design phase.

“This is a thing that reasonable people would say would need to be done,” said Pappas. “It’s a bridge!”

The measure carried unanimously.

Among other projects that may be eligible for federal funding through a stimulus package is lead paint abatement at the Sanibel Lighthouse, which may fall within the parameters of assumed funding for environmental projects.

Mayor Mick Denham informed the Council that the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council (SWFRPC) was looking into the possibility of coordinating any federal stimulus funding for all of Southwest Florida.

“That would give us and our projects more weight,” he explained.

Denham was elected Vice Chairman of the SWFRPC last week.