Carper talks stimulus


U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) was in Sussex County on Monday, March 30, and took some time to visit with Millville officials. While he was in Millville, Mayor Don Minyon asked Carper if he could briefly explain the federal stimulus package and what that means to local communities.

Castal Point • Jesse Pryor: U.S. Sen. Tom Carper discusses the federal stimulus package at Millville Town Hall on Tuesday, March 31.Castal Point • Jesse Pryor
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper discusses the federal stimulus package at Millville Town Hall on Tuesday, March 31.

“Well, I tend to be a glass-half-full kind of guy,” offered Carper. “I won’t say it was made to order for Delaware, but it’s pretty close.”

Carper explained that much of the money from the recovery bill will be allocated in Delaware to job-creating activities, with a good portion on rail and freight — more so than in most states. Money will spent on Amtrak and also on repair of rail cars, wastewater treatments plants in Wilmington and weatherization projects to help conserve energy in schools, homes and public buildings, and to help with utility payments for home owners.

He also mentioned that production tax credits for wind power will rise to a four-year credit and to an eight-year credit for solar, which will provide more stability for investors over the previous one-year credit.

“One project that’s not in, but we hope to use the money for, is at the Georgetown Air Park, to be able to bring in larger planes. We are working with the FAA and with Del Tech for a training program for people who work on planes, and those would be good paying jobs.”

The senator also spoke of “a lot going on to stabilize the housing industry,” with home foreclosure mitigation and getting back to having the ability to securitize debt and get the banking system working.

He also said there is a $8,000 first-time-homebuyer tax credit and that there is “a lot going on in the re-fi business,” with a new initiative rolled out just weeks ago that allows people who have an 80-105 percent loan-to-value situation take advantage of lower interest rates and get out of adjustable rates mortgages and into lower-rate fixed ones.

As for specific Sussex or Millville issues, such as how to pay for the infrastructure needed for a big-box store or major medical center, or the Route 26 widening project, Carper offered that town officials should keep in touch with Tim Winstead, who works with him on Sussex County issues.

“As bad as the economy is, people still want to come here,” said Minyon. “But we need the sewer and water, we need the infrastructure.”

Tom Banez of DelDOT also gave a presentation on Monday and acknowledged that the Route 26 widening project is now four years behind schedule, mainly because of “funding obstacles.” The widening project is federally funded at 80 percent, but Delaware still has to come up with 20 percent of the funding, and total construction and right-of-way acquisition will cost $74 million.

One reason for the steep price is the cost of buying of resort-area property and negotiating with a “huge number of property owners.”

“We are struggling with and concerned about construction dollars,” said Banez.

Because the associated Detour Routes project – which must be completed before the Route 26 mainline project starts, so cars have somewhere to go during the mainline project – is closer to being “shovel ready,” Millville by the Sea representatives asked if that would be a project funded by stimulus funds. But Carper said it does not qualify.

“The Detour Routes, which does seem like it would fit into that ‘shovel ready,’ is a funded project,” explained Banez. “So that’s seen as supplanting or moving money around, and we can’t do that.”

Carper said that earmarked projects rarely get more than $1 million, but every five or six years, there is a major transportation project, which might be a way to get it funded.

“The best thing is for the state to say, ‘This is a hugely important project.’ Talk to your local and state representatives and to DelDOT, and if you can get the governor’s ear, that’s a good thing, as well.”

“You’ve heard the squeaky wheel gets the grease, well, don’t be afraid to squeak,” he added.

“I’m trying,” said Minyon with a laugh.

Citizens can meet one-on-one with Lt. Gov. Matt Denn at several “stimulus suggestion box” meetings in the coming weeks, if they have a suggestion for specific projects or just want more information.

They will be held Friday, April 3, at 2 p.m. at Delaware Tech-Owens Campus, Arts & Science Center, Room 346 in Georgetown; Thursday, April 9, at 12:30 p.m. at the Tatnall Building, 3rd Floor in Dover; Wednesday, April 15, at 12:30 p.m. at the Carvel Building, 10th Floor in Wilmington; Thursday, April 16, at 4 p.m. at the Delaware Tech-Owens Campus, Arts & Science Center, Room 346 in Georgetown; and Thursday, April 23, at 4:30 p.m. in the Tatnall Building, 3rd Floor in Dover.

A RSVP is required to reserve a space at the meetings. People can RSVP to Julia Blevins at julia.blevins@state.de.us or (302) 577-8158.

For more information on what’s happening in the U.S. Senate, visit http://carper.senate.gov. For more information on how the stimulus package might affect Delaware, visit http://recovery.delaware.gov.