Recovery: March 9, 2009 Minutes

DRAFT CT Recovery Working Group

March 9, 2009   11:30
State Capitol Old Judiciary Room
Minutes

The meeting was called to order at 11:30 am

Committee Members:

 

Joan McDonald, Commissioner     Department of Economic & Comm. Development
Joseph Marie, Commissioner    Department of Transportation
Raeanne Curtis, Commissioner       Department of Public Works
Gina McCarthy, Commissioner   Department of Environmental Protection
Patricia Mayfield, Commissioner   Department of Labor
Michael Cicchetti, Deputy Secretary

 Office of Policy & Management

Mary Anne Hanley, Director  

Office of Workforce Competititveness

Jeffrey Parker, Deputy Commissioner  Department of Transportation
David O’Hearn, Deputy Commissioner    Department of Public Works
Peter Simmons       Dept. of Economic & Community Development
Mary Anne O’Neill      Office of the Governor
Lisa Moody      Office of the Governor
Matthew Fritz       Office of the Governor
Donald DeFronzo, State Senator    General Assembly – Senate Democrats
Christy Scott      General Assembly – House Democrats
Paul Pimentel   

General Assembly – Senate Republicans

James Finley, Exec. Director/CEO CT Conference of Municipalities
Bart Russell, Exec. Director      CT Council of  Small Towns
Donald Shubert, President     CT Construction Industries Association
John Olsen     CT Employment and Training Commission
George Gallo          House Republican Caucus
 Don Shubert      CCIA

 

Introductory Remarks – Matt Fritz

Matt Fritz offered welcoming remarks; committee members introduced themselves; Notices on grants and federal legislation were available in room as handouts. 

The Connecticut website regarding the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) is up and available for viewing:

 

www.recovery.ct.gov

It contains:

  • Members of this committee; meeting agendas and minutes
  • An Accountability page
  • A page with the list of proposed projects
  • The page on expediting assistance, mentioned at the last meeting

 

The Governor’s office continues to meet with stakeholders in working on maximizing grant money for projects including broadband, research and development, medical records, and energy.

 

Also, David O’Hearn,  Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Public Works, has been appointed as the new “Clerk of the Works”  as mentioned at the last meeting.  Mr. O’Hearn was selected based on his experience, and he is accountability group member.

 

Update on Committee Work:

Gina McCarthy, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, reported on the Clean Water list, funded by $48 mill from stimulus money, and bond money,  to move this forward.

 

Mary Anne O’Neil Governor’s Office,  presented the following

·        The ARRA requires a letter of commitment from the Governor agreeing that any federal stimulus money accepted will be used to create jobs.  Governor Rell has signed this commitment.

·        Stimulus money for DOT projects require a letter of assurance for maintenance of efforts to qualify for road & bridge money.  States have to maintain existing funding to support their projects in order to qualify for additional federal funding.   DOT must submit plans for using the money within 30 days.  Plans  are expected to be ready next week.

·        Education stabilization acceptance letter being prepared

·        An assurance letter for the Federal Dept of Energy is also being prepared regarding Department of Public Utility rate assurances;

·        Revision of green building codes and OPM assurances are also required to get Federal money.

·        Legislature was asked to expedite bills on Unemployment and permitting process; CT meets more than the required criteria to qualify for Unemployment Compensation modernization funds.  Governor has asked to add ‘Trailing Spouse’ benefits to Unemployment.  This supports people who must leave a job to relocate for a spouse.

 

Question:  The posted list on the website contains economic development projects, theater projects, etc.  Have towns been notified that we only have funding for energy, clean water and transportation with don’t include many of these other projects?

Answer:  We’re keeping the list of all projects for long term possibilities of economic development.  But at this time, we have not utilized limited resources to respond to individual project requests.

Question:  Local people may think funding is broader than it is. We should advise them about the constraints.

Lisa Moody responded:  We will send email to cities and mayors  advising them to check website for more info about the funding opportunities and limitations.

·        Matrix of all funding opportunities is being prepared for the end of the week.

 

Joseph Marie, Commissioner, Department of Transportation gave the following update on ARRA Projects:

ARRA Transportation fact sheet is available as a handout at the back of the room.  The transportation Infrastructure, roads & bridges, money total $302 million; As a sub allocation, 30% goes to regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO), but DOT distribute the sub allocations.   

A Map was distributed to the committee members and audience; MPOs were asked to pick most important 2 or 3 projects for this money.  $90 million is sub allocated.  The state gets the balance for state projects.

DOT is utilizing some core guiding principles so that we meet the spirit and intent of the legislation.  Regions have 1 year to obligate their money, but the state has 120 days to obligate the money for state projects.  This forces us to look for shovel ready, already advertised projects which are the pipeline, to maximize utilization of the federal funding.  Other principles include maximum job creation, and geographical equity, spreading the money around the state.

With Governor’s office, DOT created a list of projects (list was passed to committee members and audience).   The first 2 projects are already advertised.  Bids open within the next 2 weeks. Bids are coming in lower than expected which results in better use of the available funds.  The reasons are because commodities are dropping in price and contractors are hungry for work, both due to the economy.  We hope  this trend continues. 

A GIS Map on the website will show the location of all projects.  Additionally we are looking at

a rural bike and pedestrian program for which we can use stimulus money.  Project description sheets will be on website in next 4 weeks.

 

One guiding principle is to get people working with state wide road resurfacing.  We will be  awarding projects based on need around the state.   From the list, some projects are:

District 4 bridge joints need repair replace (District 4 is in the northwest corner of the state.)

There are several other bridge projects, sign support reinforcement and replacement, traffic signal repair and replacement, road striping and road improvements.   Most projects have been waiting for a number of years and are ready to go, as soon as we get federal money. 

 

Question: Projects are out for advertising, we have to meet a tight timeframe; if bid and award process go as expected, how quickly can you award these?

Answer: We anticipate having these ready to go for the 2009 spring construction season. To qualify for funding, the ARRA requires that 50% of projects be awarded within 120 days but we should try to get 100% of projects going that fast, to get people working, and encourage the federal government to continue or increase ongoing  funding for these road and bridge construction projects.

Question:  We’d like to see local labor given these opportunities.  Will workers come from out of state? What about using local materials? 

Lisa Moody responded:  The Governor is deeply committed to keeping opportunities local where the legal constraints provide us the ability to do so.

Question: The legislation implies hiring where unemployment is highest; will there be a list of local projects in addition to this state one?

Answer: Yes, and DOT will provide help to meet guidelines.

Question: It looks like there are not too many urban projects on state list

Answer:  We’ll have a presentation on the transit side momentarily and it will be more urban.

Lisa Moody responded: Highway and Bridge money is state & local.  Transit money is all local.

$1.5 billion is available in discretionary grants for more projects, which we plan to go after.

We’re hitting lots of different job areas with Road and Bridge projects money.

Comment: Industry is paralyzed and these programs must hit the road quickly to overcome this recession in the spring/summer construction season, or it will cause more company closures

Answer: Our ads are out, and we are preparing to mobilize all projects (not just the 50% required in the legislation) in 120 days.  We’re encouraging towns not to take the year allowed to them, but to get their projects going.  Again this may encourage the federal government to continue or increase this type of funding for state and local projects.

Question: Does doing these projects right away, give us flexibility to use our money for other things as the year goes on?

Answer: Yes, qualifying for and using the federal money,  frees our state money for other projects for the year.

Q&A:   70% is allocated to the state; 30% is sub allocated:  This is approximately 90 milliion for city projects and 202 million for state projects.   DOT is responsible to administer all funds.

Question: Does the act preclude using funds for Economic Development?

Answer:  It depends what the ‘economic development; project is.  We can use stimulus money for  projects related to energy or clean water.

Question: Lots of money is committed to bridges and not other things. The bulk of the money on this list is going to the Amtrak and Merrit Parkway projects. What’s the importance of these 2; Are we voting on these or will these change?

Answer: This list could change, but we want to move fast so we’re hoping to move ahead with this list.  The Amtrak bridge needs to be replaced and we finally have the money to do it. It’s a roadway job too, because it will require widening in Branford; dollar wise this is more skewed to road work and this is balanced for our infrastructure needs.

Lisa Moody responded:  RTAs will make their own decisions on how to spend their part of the money,  with help from DOT.

Michael Sanders from Department of Transportation gave the following report on Transit projects:

$137 million falls under transit; some money is sub allocated to regions called Transit Service Areas (TSA)  We’ve pooled TSA money in the past to target projects and maximize value.  We are working on this collaboration with TSAs for the stimulus money, and identifying state-wide needs.  For example, many of our bus fleets are old.  We would like to get TSA support to purchase buses together.   We will come back in 2-3 weeks with a plan for using this money;

The legislation is very complex – there are 36 pages to tell us how much money we get.  The  Federal transit process is complicated,  but we’re used to it  and feel confident in getting the stimulus money.  It will be approximately $140 million dollars more than what we normally get

based on population density; The Governor apportions small urban and rural area allotments.

Larger urban areas get their own allotments to dispense(7 transit operators in Bridgeport for example).  CT qualifies for ‘growing and high density states’ money and we also qualify for

‘fixed guideway’ money for things like HOV lanes and trains.

 

So again, we are looking at pooling of funds:  coordinating with transit operators and pooling capitol money.  We have a collaborative process that puts all the money in one pot and brings stakeholders together.   This Capitol Management Plan allows us to identify gaps and needs, and develop consensus to plan and fund projects.  We’re following this existing strategy for stimulus money.  There is a  meeting  of this group tomorrow.   We’re trying to get big projects going to obligate the money fast, but the reporting processes are burdensome; DOT wants to help local operators with that reporting.  We can take projects off current capitol plan and do them with stimulus money so that we can free up capitol money to do additional projects.  At the next meeting we’ll have more information for you.  Transit Projects we’d like to work on include purchasing buses

Comment:  Please consider Fuel Cell buses.

Answer: We have several opportunities and we’re getting 4 more fuel cell buses.

 

We are also looking at stimulus money for rail infrastructure, parking for shoreline east and possibly a  bike trail –  we’re evaluating 3 candidates for walk-ability and ride-ability around the state.   We’ll have an update at the next meeting.

 

Question: Buying buses would help us. Would it include equip for ‘demand response’ like dial-a-ride?

Answer: Para-transit vehicles are smaller and cheaper so they are more well kept.  But

20 of the large buses will be going to New Britain.

 

At the next meeting, we will discuss discretionary grant money, ports, aviation, dredging projects, runway projects, and transit jobs we’ll pursue funding for.  This group can look at these next time.

 

Lisa Moody:  For the next meeting, John requested that we move it to the afternoon  of March 23rd,  assuming this group is in agreement about list of state projects Joe talked about today so we can move forward.

 

(Reprentative Leone indicated that he was not ready to act on the projects today.)

 

Question: Can anything else be funded beside transportation, energy, water, and broadband?

Matt Fritz responded: The bill is huge; energy programs; construction in Fire Dept; homeland security projects; housing.   As we go through the bill more things may come up; We are keeping the entire list so when opportunities come up we can direct communities to funding sources;

Question:  Can we get an update on what’s available in the housing funding? 

Answer:  Due to the lateness of the hour, we need to adjourn.  But we request that DECD Commissioner, Joan McDonald, get this information.

 

Meeting adjourned at 1:30.  Next meeting will be 3/23/09 in the afternoon.  Time and location to be announced.

 





Content Last Modified on 3/18/2009 1:59:58 PM