Perrin Requested $29-Million of $787-Billion Stimulus Package

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin Monday said the city has requested $29 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. He said he's requested $11.6 million to fund capital improvement projects and $17.8 million to fund projects for public parks.

"It has to be shovel ready as they say, so we have over a billion dollars of projects that are shovel ready. Certainly we want to make sure that they get prioritized and that they get done," said Gov. Mike Beebe.

Beebe said more than $400 million will be made available for various projects in Arkansas if the President signs the stimulus bill into law. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation Tuesday.

"Of the highway money, preliminary reports suggest we may be in excess of a little over 400-million dollars, for infrastructure, highways, bridges. The highway department has to do things that are already scheduled according to the legislation of the stimulus," said Beebe.

The economic recovery bill, valued at $787 billion, is designed to prevent further budget cuts in cities across the country. It's also proposed to rebuild the country's infrastructure, providing funding and jobs to various municipalities.

Perrin said the city of Jonesboro intends on doing work itself. He said other cities in Arkansas go through a lengthy process in which plans and construction bids are made, contracts are granted and reviews are performed. The city of Jonesboro bypasses some of these tasks on certain projects.

"A majority of the projects that we sent down to Little Rock is projects that we would be doing ourselves here in the city. I don't know how many projects within the city that we have ready to go to contract, because again, the problem you have there, is that we have to bid out every project that we do, so once you get your project ready to go, in other words, do your engineering study and things of that nature, you know, to me that would add into that, so if you've done your engineering study and you've done the groundwork and it's ready to go to contract, we could go to contract very quickly," said Perrin.

"The governor sent out a letter back in December about the stimulus package. And he had a cutoff date of January 7th. And so what I done is I had all the public works people come in and start giving me a list of all our capital improvements. Everything that we had planned for 2009 and 2010 that we felt like was ready to go. And so we made a list of those and those totaled up, a total of $11,660,000. Now, in addition to that, in our parks department, we have a tremendous amount of projects there that we want to fund also in the stimulus package, and those added up, ready to go, $11 million, excuse me, $17,884,000. We're asking the state of Arkansas in our package that we have in Little Rock now, we're asking for right at $30 million," said Perrin.

Perrin said several projects in Jonesboro are ready to start immediately.

"All of the projects that we sent in, they could be shovel ready, if you will, tomorrow. We will get started on them just as soon as we could get approval from the state of Arkansas," said Perrin.

Governor Beebe said the state of Arkansas is ready to accept more than $1 billion in stimulus money. Most projects considered "shovel ready" are aimed at rebuilding roads, replacing old bridges, expanding airports, repairing water systems and creating new forms of alternative energy.

"One of the things that, obviously, will be hit first will be to try to ramp up construction crews and construction jobs, but it's not just limited to that. I think they're will be a lot of jobs in some it areas. Certainly broadband expansion and transmission expansion for new wind energy and alternative forms of energy are things that are being contemplated as well. So hopefully it'll create jobs in all kinds of sectors. The more people who go to work and spend money, then that'll create jobs in sectors that aren't even directly affected by the stimulus. So if people are buying furniture or television sets or cars, or spending money in restaurants, and that stimulates the whole economy even more, so consequently, that can help you indirectly," said Beebe.

Beebe said two of his priorities in northeast Arkansas are widening Highway 226 and upgrading future Interstate-555.

"In terms of what happened in northeast Arkansas, I don't have any specifics yet. I will tell that two high priorities for me are 226 and the access on 55, or I-55, or I-555, which is what it will ultimately be, 63 to Memphis, so hopefully those two projects, whether they're taken care of with stimulus money, or whether stimulus money frees up other state revenues to be able to take care of that. Both 226 and the new I-555 are priorities," said Beebe.

Perrin, who is expected to give his State of the City Address Tuesday night at the Jonesboro City Council Meeting, said it's evident something needs to be done to stimulate the economy. He said he's never seen interest rates so low in his life.

"It appears that we're going to have to do something in this country to stimulate the economy, and I've been around for a few years. I've never seen where interest rates are as low as they are, and the number of companies that are asking for assistance from the government in regards to bailout and things of that nature," said Perrin.

The package on the President's desk includes provisions of accountability; something Perrin said should have been included in the first bailout bill.

"The thing that I do like, is that now, some of the people that they're asking to get assistance for a bailout, they're putting restrictions on, and I think before that, the money was just given to them and they could use that money with whatever they wanted to do," said Perrin.

"Other states that I've looked at and read some of their packages, is that they may be ready to go, but you're absolutely right, if they don't have a contract to go on it, then the question is going to be what is ready to go," said Perrin.

"Jonesboro, solo, individually, we have $30 million worth of needs, just in the city of Jonesboro," said Perrin.

The stimulus package would provide $500 tax credit for individuals, $1,000 for joint filers, over the 2009-2010 tax years, if signed into law.

Perrin said Jonesboro residents need to learn from the lessons of other cities, which have been hit much harder economically.

"Jonesboro is very fortunate, and when I give my State of the Address tomorrow night, for the city of Jonesboro for 2008, I'm telling the people of Jonesboro that we're not immune to this at all, and we are seeing some effects of the economy, but nothing like other cities," said Perrin.