Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote these stories:
Anticipating a federal stimulus package that could help fund major infrastructure projects in the city, Mayor Art Ward said he is supplying a list of "shovel ready" work to Congressman John Larson.
Ward said he worked with directors of various city departments, including parks, public works, fire, water pollution control and the water department to develop a roster of potential projects.
He asked each of them for suggestions of infrastructure needs, Ward said.
The mayor said he's sorted it out into the "shovel ready" projects that President-elect Barack Obama has called for as well as longer range ideas.
Ward said he thinks Obama's economic stimulus plan for funding shorter term projects to be finished within 12 to 18 months will serve citizens better than another $300 to $500 rebate check.
"It would be more beneficial," said Ward. "You're not only stimulating the economic with provisions for jobs and money, you're also addressing the needs of the country at the same time."
The city's efforts are proactive, said Ward, in anticipation of a call for projects.
He sent the wish list to Larson with a letter supporting the "Main Street Stimulus" package proposed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The initiative calls for, among other things, expanding the federal community development block grant program, which is allocated through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
If the city is able to tap into a federal stimulus program under the Obama administration, said Ward, Bristol might see some of its wish list completed sooner "than even in the best of times."
The jobs involved, said Ward, would certainly include construction work and related services and flow from there.
The effect of the recession on Bristol's economy will be more clear after the first of the year, said Ward, when the city begins to see an impact on building permits, conveyance taxes and other indicators.
A drop in casino revenue will mean a corresponding drop in Bristol's share of the state casino money, said Ward. He said the city has been receiving a little less than $1 million a year from gambling, but expects not to get that much in the coming year.
What's on the list
The city's wish list of infrastructure projects – or other ways that a federal government stimulus package could help Bristol – include ideas ranging from basics like food to possible changes at the incinerator.
In a letter to Congressman John Larson, Mayor Art Ward outlined how federal cash could help the Mum City.
First on the list was a boost in community development block grant funds, which are spread among local non-profits as both direct assistance to low and moderate income people as well as used for facility improvements such as a new roof or windows. The grants, which are distributed through the Bristol Development Authority, have also been given to home and business owners for property rehabilitation as well as used by the city for demolishing blighted buildings.
Beyond the development block grants, Ward said he supported energy block grants that he said could be used to increase efficiency in older or historic buildings but also to explore whether methane production in the landfill "would be worthwhile."
If there is federal money for wastewater infrastructure, Ward wrote, the city's "overloaded wastewater treatment facility" could be improved and sewers added in the southwestern part of town where septic failures are threatening Cedar Lake.
Ward also suggested that federal dollars would be well spent to modernize the city's schools so that state money could be spent on teaching rather than facilities.
The mayor told Larson that federal programs aimed at public safety have "significantly reduced crime" and improved law enforcement.
In addition, Ward listed local government credit assistance, job training, small business loans, the extension of unemployment benefits and food assistance could help Bristol.
Specific projects in Bristol that could be considered for federal stimulus if it comes to pass include flood control measures, bridge and road improvements, restoration and upgrades at city parks and Muzzy Field and replacing old fire hydrants and city water lines made of iron and lead.
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