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Solutions proposed to solve local funding issues

At his meeting with Rep. Bill Johnson (R-6) on Monday, Lawrence County Engineer Doug Cade presented the congressman with a written briefing detailing the issues in getting federal funds to local projects and his solutions.

First was what Cade called “a disproportionate number of county bridges throughout the state” in poor condition. Since federal funds only pick up 80 percent of the construction costs, local governments have to cover their share of construction plus design and real estate charges.

Cade’s solution would be either to offer direct aid to counties or develop a County Engineer Pool similar to the Community Development Block Grants Formula Program. He would also want to see counties be able to use up to 100 percent of their allocation for design, real estate and construction.

The majority of county engineers’ budgets comes from the Motor Vehicle Gas Tax. However with cars more fuel-efficient and construction costs on the rise, county funds to repair county roads continue to decline.

The engineer suggests again direct aid to counties or a pool comparable to the CDBG program.

As far as aiding a community facing a natural disaster and needing Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance, “cash flow and advancing funds to start or complete projects is difficult when a community is already struggling,” Cade states. “After a disaster, many local communities have expended all of their reserves which were minimal to begin with to deal with the immediate response of the disaster.”

Cade’s solution would be direct payment to contractors or material suppliers to relieve the burden of a local community having to advance funds; and develop a loan program to help communities to meet their local match.