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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 2, 2009

Beyond a bailout, use stimulus funds to build a better tomorrow

Illustration by Forest Byrd.

Americans have heard much about the promise of the federal stimulus package in recent weeks. We believe it is a sound idea to put people to work on needed projects in the midst of a faltering economy.

New York State’s unemployment rate is now at a staggering 7.8 percent. Schools, businesses — from eateries to factories — and even state government are cutting jobs to save money. But the repercussions of those cuts lead to a downward spiral, as jobless people spend less, leading more businesses to cut back.

A key, though, is for the state to choose wisely which projects to finance. Many of the government-funded projects from the Great Depression — ranging from the essential like the Tennessee Valley Authority that brought electricity to the rural Appalachians to the recreational like the Civilian Conservation Corps that built park structures still proudly serving today — not only put people to work but raised the quality of life for Americans.

We hope that, with the current package, for example, precedence is given to green projects — railroads over highways, for instance — that will serve our society while helping to save our earth from destructive climate change.

Surveying the leaders in our local municipalities this week, we found some confusion about how the application process works and what the criteria for selection are. By talking to a spokesperson in the governor’s office, Erin Duggan, we clearly delineated the process in our story.

One Hilltown applicant, for example, told us the highway funds had most likely already been used, given to early applicants. Not so, said Duggan. As of Tuesday, she said, only 40 infrastructure projects, costing a total of about $100 million, had been certified.

And, she said, municipalities are still welcome to apply.

We also learned that only one dollar in funds is available for every 25 dollars applied for to date. New York has about $4 billion to spend on highway, mass transit, and energy projects. So far, Duggan said on Tuesday, about $100 billion in requests for these funds have been made.

We’ve described the projects each of our municipalities has submitted — from installing solar cells and building hiking trails to fixing decaying sewers and crumbling roads — and we urge our readers to take an interest.

 The voices of individual citizens could help decision-makers distinguish the worth of one project over another.

A case in point is Guilderland’s $5.7 million proposal to restore McKownville’s storm-water system.

The problem in McKownville is two-fold. The storm-water system was built decades ago with clay pipes that have since deteriorated. “It’s basically an old, abandoned sewer system,” Supervisor Kenneth Runion told our reporter, Anne Hayden.

The second problem was pointed out by Don Reeb, president of the McKownville Improvement Association and a tireless advocate for his neighborhood. He notes that readings from a United States Geological Survey well in McKownville show that the water table has risen four feet in five years.

Fixing the storm-water system will help alleviate flooding problems on Route 20. Heavy rains frequently force sections of road near Stuyvesant Plaza to close, creating a dangerous situation for motorists.

And, fixing the storm-water system will also help McKownville residents who have had to put up with flooded basements.

Last summer, the Plant family heard a late-night crash in the midst of a thunderstorm. Flooding had brought down one of the basement walls in their Providence Street home. “It was coming in like a river,” said Laura Plant of the water.

The Red Cross put up the couple and their children in a nearby hotel as repair work was done. Their insurance didn’t cover the costs of expensive repairs. “It’s so much more than what you’d think,” said Mrs. Plant at the time.

Residents deserve to feel secure in their homes. And stimulus money offers not just an opportunity for work but a chance to get needed repairs made.

Reeb writes in a model letter to plead for stimulus funds, “This is what is so nice about the stimulus package — it allows communities and states to do things that should have been done years ago. While we are going into debt and billing our children, we should at least go in to debt for things that will benefit the next generation. Having a safe, efficient, and effective storm system in McKownville is one of those things. It is a perfect match for the funds.”

We couldn’t have said it any better.

Supervisor Runion told our reporter, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” as he called for letters and e-mails of support to show the governor the seriousness of the McKownville problem.

We urge our readers once again to pick up their pens, or to pound their keyboards, to make their voices heard. See that the federal stimulus money is used in a way that is worthwhile.

The future — and that of your children and grandchildren — is in your hands.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor

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