Governor gives locals lowdown on stimulus

By J. PATRICK PEPPER Times-Herald Newspapers   DETROIT — In front of a standing-room only crowd of local policymakers, Gov. Jennifer Granholm outlined many details for nearly $6.7 billion in federal stimulus money soon headed to Michigan.   But her enthusiasm for the sorely needed cash influx was tempered by the reality that there are a lot more proposals than there is money to spend. A 1,206-page document on the state’s Web site shows thousands of requests for the money ranging from school, road and sewer projects to new community centers and AIDS awareness. Projects on the list total $59 billion.   “While I know we all have endless wish lists, it is important to recognize that the stimulus money will not meet all the proposals submitted — and it is a one-time deal,” Granholm said. “I would caution all of us to spend this one-time money on one-time projects.”   Both Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, whose requests total nearly $130 million and $81 million, respectively, have singled out several one-time projects that city officials believe could provide residents with a significant upgrade in public amenities.   Officials from both cities have their eyes on new community complexes; a $24 million, 70,000-square-foot reconstruction of the Canfield Community Center in the Heights, and in Dearborn, a 200,000-square-foot, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified conference center located near Fairlane Town Center.   The stimulus act’s focus on energy-efficient investments also was taken into account by city officials. Out of more than 60 proposed projects, about a quarter of Dearborn’s are related to improving existing energy systems or installing new ones. Some of the proposals include $5 million for wind turbines along the Rouge River, $625,000 for 25 new hybrid vehicles and $6 million to turn City Hall into a “green campus.”   In Dearborn Heights, officials are hoping for money to replace old streetlights with energy-efficient light-emitting diode lights and $1 million for upgrades to the Department of Public Works facility, including new windows and insulation.   And while the projects that will receive funding have yet to be identified, the wait to find out what is and what isn’t happening won’t be long.   The act stipulates that formula grants – which rely on different factors to allocate money proportionally to local governments – shall be awarded by March 30. And competitive grants – money for projects based on their merits – will be awarded no later than May 19.   In the meantime, local officials will continue to lobby their representatives for all they can, as traditional funding streams slow to a trickle.   “It’s almost like swimming in a pool of sharks,” said Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. “We all have fiscal problems, we all have declining revenue, so everyone will be trying to get as much as they can.”