Duluth police, DTA benefit from stimulus spendingWith thousands of dollars awarded and more awaited, the Duluth Police Department and the Duluth Transit Authority are microcosms of how the federal stimulus package has helped local agencies.
By: Andy Greder, Duluth News Tribune
With thousands of dollars awarded and more awaited, the Duluth Police Department and the Duluth Transit Authority are microcosms of how the federal stimulus package has helped local agencies.
The Obama administration’s report card Friday of how the $787 billion bill has affected communities and the economy included $3.2 million to the DTA and more than $800,000 for Duluth police.
But what the report didn’t show is that the DTA won’t receive half of that money for 10 new buses until late next year, and the Duluth police have yet to hear back on a pending grant to hire up to 12 new officers.
Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., said, however, that the implementation of the bill has been going according to plan.
“The program was designed so about half of the money would be obligated in this year and another half in 2010,” said the Democrat from Chisholm. “The rest of it comes in little bits and pieces and you don’t see it day by day. I would say that nearly every economist that has addressed the subject has said that the recession would have been the ‘Great Recession’ without the stimulus funding. It has helped. It has staved off a worse economic condition for the country and there are more benefits to come as these other programs that are [not tracked by a] formula take effect.”
The biggest impact intended from the stimulus was saving or creating jobs.
At the police department, about five jobs will be created in two grants totaling about $500,000, but word is still pending on whether they will be able to hire new officers with aid from the Justice Department.
Duluth police filed the grant in April with a decision expected in three months to a year, said Susan Campbell, the department’s grant coordinator.
“They are trying to turn the stimulus package around as quickly as possible, but with cop grants, they are receiving much more requests than dollars offered,” Campbell said. “It’s still possible that we could get officers out of that grant, but the odds are not 12 [officers].”
A third grant worth $270,000 will allow police to buy new crime scene investigation equipment.
At the DTA, an estimated six jobs have been saved with the $710,000 installation of new heating and cooling system and $125,000 for a new parking lot that will reduce overhead at its 30-year-old headquarters on West Michigan Street.
Dennis Jensen, DTA general manager, said the stimulus not only allows them to cut overhead costs, it also frees up state funding for roads and bridges.
The 2010 facet of stimulus funding for the DTA will go toward replacing 10 decade-old buses. About $1.7 million will be spent to purchase the equivalent of 4.5 buses, with the other 5.5 buses coming through other federal and local funding.
“It’s items that we have identified as a need,” Jensen said, “but didn’t have the funding at the time to do it.”