Don't turn back on grant funds

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Before McCook and Red Willow County officials turn their back on state and federal funding -- as was suggested during city and county board meetings Monday -- they better take a long, hard look at the how heavily the city, the county and the school system already rely on state and federal money.

The grant amounts total many millions of dollars, and -- without the funds -- many crucial local and area projects would grind to a standstill.

To start with, officials need to consider how essential the 80 percent state match was for the improvement of the in-town portions of U.S. Highway 83 and 6-34. Those projects -- which took place in four phases over the past decade -- cost a combined total of $14.4 million. Of that amount, more than $11 million came from the state, which in turn benefits from federal appropriations.

That's just one example that city and county officials need to consider. They also need to look at the impact that Community Development Block Grant funds are having on business development in McCook and Red Willow County. Starting as loans totaling $540,000 to Red Willow and Three Star dairies, the bulk of the loans have since been repaid and have been loaned out again to other business developments in the city and county. The revolving funds will continue to be loaned out to other ventures, creating continuing economic development for McCook and Red Willow County.

County commissioners also need to remember other projects made possible by state and federal funding. These include the Household Hazardous Waste program, which has received more than a million dollars since 1996; Homeland Security grants, which have totaled more than $150,000 in recent years; and grants to the Red Willow County Health Department, totaling more than $200,000 since 1999.

The officials also need to keep in mind the more than $100,000 received annually by rural and city fire departments in the area.

Over and above all this is the more than $1 million in government grant funds, already received by McCook School District 17 this year. That money is in addition to state aid, which will be in excess of $3.89 million this year.

From a philosophical standpoint, it can be argued that state and federal funding for some projects is ill-advised. However, city and county officials do a disservice to taxpayers when they do not utilize government funding for local projects.

Residents of McCook and Red Willow County pay more than their fair share of state and federal expenses through federal and state income taxes, state sales tax and state and federal gas taxes, plus a myriad of other fees and assessments. To turn our back on state and federal funding is a futile cry in the wind which is detrimental to local projects and taxpayers.

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