Getting Ready For Infrastructure
Years ago, I read about the career of Robert Moses known for his expertise in building public infrastructure like highways, bridges and hydroelectric plants in New York State. What I had not known before reading his biography is that he gotten an early start on such matters during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration.
At that time, Moses was heading up the Parks Department in New York City. When FDR started the New Deal, federal stimulus money became available to help bring the nation out of the great depression–some of it was ear-marked for parks. Robert Moses had expected this might happen and so already had a plan in place to build neighborhood parks in New York. Many went to Washington to ask for the federal money. Moses did that but he also had blueprints in hand.
That meant he could start almost immediately to construct about 100 neighborhood parks in the City of New York. He got a lot of money, and he built the parks. That was just beginning for Robert Moses.
Today, the same thing seems to be happening in Washington. It was recently announced that the cities of Dunkirk and Jamestown as well as Chautauqua County would be receiving significant federal aid because of COVID 19 impacts. My reading indicates that at least some of this money could be used in building or upgrading public infrastructure like water and sewer systems.
Are we ready to do it? Do we have the blueprints? Can we translate this new influx of federal money into infrastructure projects which will benefit Chautauqua County and its residents? That is the challenge faced by our elected officials. There may be even more federal funding available for such projects if the long-awaited and long talked-about federal infrastructure program is finally passed.
I, for one, hope that we are ready-to-go. I remember back to the early 1980’s when the sewer up the east side of the lake to Bemus Point was built. Federal money paid for 50% of that project. The State of New York was “on board” for another 25%–that is what made the project affordable for local residents.
This fact also meant that both Republicans and Democrats could agree to move the project forward.
This same opportunity may be facing us now. In a time of crisis, federal and, hopefully, state funding can be combined to push long needed sewer and water projects in the area. We need to be prepared to take advantage of this special time.
Such state or federal funding could be a “one-shot” appropriation. We are not talking about money, ad infinitum, like school aid which comes every year. Aid for infrastructure will likely be tied to stimulating the economy now.
So, if you are a locally-elected official, I hope that you are “dusting off” old blue prints of infrastructure projects that you have always wanted but never had the financial where-with-all to complete. This is your time of opportunity.
Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.