County unlikely to get much in federal earmarks

Published: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
After a bonanza last year, Alachua County may get little or no federal money for special projects for transportation, the homeless, land conservation and other key areas, lobbyists said Tuesday.
County commissioners got the news at a meeting with their lobbyists from the Washington, D.C., firm Jorden Burt and began trying to map a strategy for the close of the session this year and the start of 2007.
"After a high-water mark last year, I come to you very, very disappointed," lobbyist Marilyn Berry Thompson said.
Thompson updated the county commission on the status of funding for special appropriations - called earmarks - for various specific projects.
So far Alachua County has no appropriations, though some are possible when Congress returns to session after the election.
Gainesville has gotten $200,000 for the Regional Transit System, Thompson said, adding that that won't cover the cost of one bus.
Commissioners said that next year Congress may be more inclined to support transportation and other social needs, particularly with the November midterm elections out of the way.
"We understand there are going to be some lean years," Commissioner Rodney Long said. "I'm just hoping in January there will be a breath of freshness in the air, especially on these social programs."
Added Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, "We all knew the spectacular years had to come to an end at some point."
The county sought money for roads and other transportation needs, a long-term plan to curb homelessness, a land-conservation program and other initiatives.
No money has been appropriated for the county's homeless and land-conservation programs.
An initiative for money to help small cities improve water and wastewater systems has been listed in the agriculture appropriations bill, but not yet funded.
Thompson said Congress will be back in session after next week's election, but added it is not certain what will be accomplished.
"Congress will be back Nov. 13 amidst great disarray and chaos," she said. "It is a very, very dangerous time, especially for domestic funding."
Last year the county got about $19 million, for transportation projects.
In the past few years it has also gotten money for criminal justice, land conservation, disadvantaged youth and other programs.
F. Marion Turner of Jorden Burt suggested the county modify some of its strategies when developing a federal agenda for next year, suggesting a different approach to land-conservation and small-city requests.
Thompson suggested the county change its focus to trying to get grants rather than earmarks.
"The real potential is in tracking and dogging these federal grants," Thompson said. "These earmarks are getting smaller and farther apart."
Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or

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