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Travis aims to use stimulus money for water connections

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham

Travis County Commissioners have retooled how they will approach the Community Development Block Grant money available to the county from the federal stimulus package. The county is eyeing some $226,300 that could be accessed through HUD and the county’s Health and Human Services Department.


Sherri Fleming, executive manager for the county’s Health and Human Services & Veterans Service Department, and Christy Moffett, the CDBG senior planner, told commissioners that they had investigated four potential programs after the court’s previous consideration and concluded that the most effective project was actually one that the court had not even recommended.


The Health and Human Services Department examined the potential for using stimulus funds for home rehabilitation, home buyer assistance, air conditioners for the elderly and summer youth employment. However, Moffett said, a ‘webinar’ with HUD enlightened the office to the nuances of their guidelines. “As a result of that webinar, we also reconsidered a project that had been on the list, but that we indicated wasn’t a good fit for this,” Moffett told the court. County staff had previously submitted several pages of potential projects, most of which were deemed incompatible for the CDBG-R funds.


Ultimately Fleming and Moffett proposed using federal stimulus dollars to fund a project that would connect low-to-middle income residents in the Plainview Estates neighborhood to a water line the county had built in 2007. Back then, the CDBG office conducted a survey and residents thought that they could afford to pay for the individual water connections themselves. “Well, times have changed. They are having difficulty connecting to that water infrastructure,” Moffett said. “So this would provide design, engineering, surveying and environmental clearance and construction for the project.” Only households which fell below a certain income would get help installing the water connection.


Importantly, the project is “shovel ready,” and the county will be able to make financial commitments with the money within 120 days of receiving the award. Because the Transportation and Natural Resources Department has a list of pre-qualified architectural and engineering firms that can do work that costs less than $100,000, HHS can use these firms rather than submitting an RFP.


In addition to a project manager, HHS estimates that four or five temporary workers would be hired to complete the connections. The court voted unanimously for the Plainview Estates project. A seven-day Public Comment period, as required by the federal government, runs through Thursday.

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