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St. Croix Co. officials frustrated in attempts to get stimulus money

While school districts and some county residents are benefiting from federal economic stimulus money, St. Croix County itself hasn't been very successful.

"There's a ton of programs out there, but we haven't been able to find ones that apply to what the county is doing," Administrative Coordinator Chuck Whiting told Finance Committee members last week.

The Highway Department applied for funding for four projects but got approval for none. The district attorney's office did get a $25,000 grant to help pay a victim services assistant.

According to a summary sheet distributed last week, the county's school districts will share $11.5 million in grants and state "fiscal stabilization" funds.

An estimated 6,040 St. Croix County residents will receive a $25 increase in weekly unemployment benefits and about 990 residents will get extra weeks of benefits through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Recovery Act will also provide additional food assistance benefits to nearly 4,000 low income children and adults in St. Croix County.

Highway Commissioner Tim Ramberg said one of his projects and a project from Woodville made it through the first evaluation phase but no further.

"They both made it to the governor's desk but didn't make it off," said Ramberg. He said the projects he submitted were "dirt ready."

The most promising project, reconstruction of County Road PP, was a joint project with Dunn County so Ramberg had high hopes for that.

"I'm real disappointed," he said.

Whiting said he recently attended an administrators' conference in Wisconsin Dells. Two counties reported they'd gotten money for bridges but others weren't successful.

He said he heard "some frustration that it isn't quite as accessible as one might have hoped."

Applying for the funds may be work that is beyond what he or department heads have time to do, said Whiting. "It can be very tedious, (but) rewarding if you get lucky."

Dunn County hired former Pierce County administrative coordinator Mark Schroeder to work on applications, and Whiting said he is also attempting to reach Schroeder.

St. Croix has been notified that $8.4 million in Recovery Zone bonds have been allocated for government-owned and private user projects in the county.

Part of that money is set aside to refund some of the interest paid to finance governmentally-owned projects and some is for new private construction projects.

To access either type of funding, the county would have to designate a Recovery Zone -- an area that has significant poverty, unemployment, rate of home foreclosures or general distress or has been designated as an empowerment zone or renewal community.

Whiting said it's hard to say if the county is in a position to do any of that.