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Fewer Dollars From Washington

By Glenn Collins
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 | 9:02 AM

Kay Sunseri, Neetika Cox, David Cox, Bebe Cox, Senator Shelby and Ken Sunseri. Cox and Sunseri met with members of Congress and their staffs during the Rural Water Rally 2011.

While Haleyville was dealing with another snow last week, Mayor Ken Sunseri and Water Department Manager David Cox were in Washington looking for funds for water projects. With Congress and the White House on a course toward reducing the budget deficit, Sunseri and Cox realize one thing: there is no easy money.

Sunseri and Cox were at the Rural Water Rally, an annual event sponsored by the National Rural Water Association. The meeting included three days of congressional appointments.

According to Cox, money from Congress to improve and maintain water systems was available in the form of “earmarks.” With Washington in an “anti-earmark” frame of mind, available money for local projects has become aloof. The competition for fewer dollars will be intense as states and localities battle for the remaining, shrinking pie.

Sunseri said, “We've been doing a lot with little money, now they expect us to do a lot with nothing.” He added that was one reason behind the sales tax increase. “We cannot keep patching roads. The base will fail and take water, sewer, and gas lines with it;” Sunseri said, "the entire infrastructure is interconnected."

In one meeting on the Hill, both were told that there will be “drastic cuts” in the budget, perhaps back to FY2006 spending levels. As dollars from Washington decline, and the percentage for local matches to grants rises, Sunseri said, “Everybody's in a mess.”

“Localities that are smart and spend their dollars wisely are in good shape,” Cox said.” He added that the Water Board is in pretty good shape, does not owe a lot of money. The Board already has plans for a bond issue next year.

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