Monday, February 23, 2009

Loudoun Aims to Make Most of Stimulus

Loudoun Aims to Make Most of Stimulus
County Lines Up Possible Projects
By Kafia A. Hosh

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Loudoun County officials are combing through the $787 billion federal stimulus package signed into law last week to see what public infrastructure projects in the county might be eligible.

The county's share of the school and transportation funds in the package remains unclear because the rules for distributing the money to localities have not been finalized, Loudoun officials said.

The rules for energy-saving projects are known, and officials are hopeful that Loudoun will get at least $1 million of that aid. The county can apply directly to the federal government for a share of a $3.2 billion energy efficiency and conservation block grant. Some of the grant money is set aside for the 10 most populous localities in each state, a category that includes Loudoun.

A Feb. 11 county staff report based on the House version of the stimulus package, which allocated $3.5 billion for the energy program, estimated Loudoun's share at $1.6 million.

In a wish list for federal stimulus funds that the Board of Supervisors approved last month, Loudoun identified $1.1 million in energy upgrades to the Claude Moore Recreation Center in Sterling and to the county government building, county courthouse, fire and rescue training center, the Shenandoah Building and the Department of Information Technology headquarters, all in Leesburg.

The improvements to the buildings would include energy-efficient lighting, water conservation measures and better insulation of windows and doors. The upgrades would lower the county government's utility bills by about $143,000 a year, according to a report from the board's Energy and Environment Committee.

The federal block grant program was established in 2007 but received no funding at the time. Climate Communities, a national coalition of local governments that includes Loudoun, had lobbied Congress to provide money.

"We're really very happy that the $3.2 billion was put into this program, and we've been preparing for it in the hopes that it would actually come through," said Supervisor Andrea McGimsey (D-Potomac), who heads the Energy and Environment Committee.

County officials are hopeful that the details they have compiled on how they would use the funds will boost their chances of getting aid.

The committee report shows that "we have some very good uses for these monies," said Diane O'Grady, staff liaison to the committee. "We're ready with projects that have been well thought-out, that have been well researched."

The wish list approved by supervisors last month totaled $744 million and included many road and school construction projects, such as $91.2 million to widen Route 659 between Route 7 and the Dulles Greenway, $83 million to build Tuscarora High School and $70.6 million to build Woodgrove High School.

County staff members said they expect to have enough information by next month to brief supervisors on which projects are likely to receive federal stimulus funds.

"We're trying to align our wish list with what may be available," said Assistant County Administrator John Sandy. "We're going to dust off our project list and see if any of that stuff lines up."

State and local governments in Virginia are expecting to get about $4 billion from the stimulus package. Education-related aid will most likely be allocated through the state and include some funding for school construction, Sandy said.

"That's one of the things that we have to basically look into, to determine how the monies are going to be arrayed," Sandy said. "We're going to work with the state."

Loudoun's share of transportation aid will depend on whether the money goes through the state or is distributed directly to regional planning districts, Sandy said, adding that Loudoun might fare better with the latter arrangement.

"We might be able to be a little more competitive [in Northern Virginia] as opposed to the state," he said.

Copyright 2009 The Washington Post Company

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