Stimulus: Cash hasn’t gotten to most crucial needs

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 21, 2010

A thumb sideways for how American Recovery and Reinvestment Act cash has been allocated to and by government organizations in Vicksburg and Warren County.

Several needed projects will be completed, including additions at two public schools that will replace portable classrooms. Four police officers will be added, the city will spend about $1 million resurfacing portions of Clay Street and Wisconsin Avenue and the Vicksburg Housing Authority will spend nearly $1 million on reroofing and adding energy efficient windows to homes and apartments in its inventory.

But it has to be noted that when Congress passed the all-time record $787 billion stimulus bill a year ago, a clarion call for “shovel-ready” projects went out. No project anywhere was more shovel-ready than replacing the Washington Street rail overpass at Clark Street. The design was complete and a bid was in to do the work and reopen the city’s major north-south roadway. Yet because no source had been identified for about $3 million of the total $8 million cost, the project was on hold. And it remains on hold as the City of Vicksburg moves ahead with such less-critical projects as new trolleys for the already under-utilized NRoute public transit system, 940 portable barricades, fancier radios, generators and more laptop computers.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Warren County stepped right up with a wish list. The county’s most pressing need, a new jail, wasn’t shovel-ready, but it didn’t get a dime.

Math students got new calculators to use in school and teachers are to get $5,000 computerized screens to use in their classrooms. The Vicksburg National Military park got money to restore the Shirley House and to stabilize terraces in the Vicksburg National Military Cemetery. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers got a major infusion of $220 million for dredging and flood control work, but specifically eliminated was the decades-old project to complete a design adding pumps to remove impounded water from the lower Mississippi Delta during flood years.

As has been pointed out repeatedly, every penny of this money has been borrowed from future taxpayers, but Congress said it was “essential” to kick start the economic collapse triggered by failures on Wall Street that started in the fall of 2008. There is no way to calculate a precise number, but clearly the money coming to this community has kept some people working.

So no thumbs up and no thumbs down. A thumb sideways, because the millions, while welcome, should have been directed to the most critical projects. So far, that hasn’t happened.