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Commissioner questions disbursement of stimulus funds

LAWRENCE COUNTY — All men may be created equally, but apparently all counties were not equal when the federal stimulus money was being passed out and one county commissioner wants to know why.

The Lawrence County Commission Thursday agreed to send a letter to elected officials in Columbus and Washington, asking why some counties received a larger share of the stimulus funds than others.

Commissioner Jason Stephens said Athens County has gotten a much larger share of the pie, including $150 million for its U.S 33 bypass around Nelsonville.

Lawrence County did get $3.6 million for an intermodal project at The Point industrial park, but received nothing for its Chesapeake Bypass— some 30 years after plans for it were announced — and nothing for the Ironton-Russell Bridge, a project that more than meets the stimulus requisite for being shovel-ready.

“All it needs is funding and we can start construction,” Stephens said of the bridge project.

He pointed out that the Chesapeake Bypass is needed now more than ever — State Route 7 is down to one lane near Chesapeake because of a hillside slip.

Stephens wondered if politics has anything to do with the way the stimulus funds are being divvied up.

He pointed out that Athens Countians voted for Obama in the last presidential election — by a more than two-to-one margin — while Lawrence Countians went Republican with G.O.P. candidate John McCain (15,415 votes) and Obama (11,262).

“I try not to say a whole lot of about the feds when they’re handing out money, but when we’re not getting a whole lot to start with…” Stephens said.

Letters will go to Gov. Ted Strickland, U.S. Sixth District Congressman Charlie Wilson and the state’s two U.S. senators, George Voinovich and Sherrod Brown.