Monday, June 08, 2009

CU June 15 Deadline for Stimulus Fund Application at Odds with FTA's Published Deadline

Federal Transit Administration indicates deadline is July 1, 2009

Earlier today, I questioned whether City Utilities [CU] would have time to change course on the site they had selected to build their new bus transfer facility, considering the June 15 application deadline CU has reported it must meet.

Not to be repititious but, on June 4, the City's Web log, "CityConnect" reported, "[City Manager Greg] Burris said he recognizes that City Utilities is on a tight timeline for several reasons, including a June 15 deadline for applying for federal stimulus funding."

Tonight, as I read the letter Becky Spence's legal council permitted she and her assistant to release to me, I wonder what was the origin of that June 15 deadline?

Spence believes the June 15 date CU has claimed as the deadline for applying for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding to be a self-imposed date, set by CU, not the federal government. Certainly, the letter I hold, from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Regional Administrator, appears to affirm that the deadline CU has widely reported does not come from the FTA.

"July 1, 2009 is the date identified in the March 5, 2009 Federal Register notice as FTA's final date to accept grant applications in order to ensure projects are awarded by September 1, 2009," the May 15 letter stated. "This date assumes that projects are "ready to go" and be implemented. As of today, this project is not ready for ARRA funding."

The FTA indicated the project was not ready for funding because, while CU has issued the notice to condemn Becky Spence's property, they have yet to file the petition to condemn it.

"...the FTA will not approve an ARRA grant for construction until CU has filed the petition to condemn the 505 [E. St. Louis Street] property," the letter stated.

Spence said she received the May 15 letter, written by U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Regional Administrator Mokhtee Ahmad to Transit Director Carol Cruise, as an attachment to a May 18, City Utility letter.

An updated media advisory from Director of Public Information Louise Whall states, "The City Council will go directly into a special meeting at noon Tuesday in the Busch Building 4th Floor Conference Room. The meeting will begin as an open meeting with a presentation by City Utilities regarding its site-selection process for the proposed bus-transfer facility. Following the presentation, the Council will adjourn to closed session under the Missouri Sunshine Law exemption for real estate."

The City advisory also notes that the City Council discussed re-scheduling the meeting they had cancelled for Monday, June 8. That meeting was originally scheduled to have a public hearing concerning eminent domain, and to pass a resolution to communicate the Council's feelings about its use. It was cancelled when CU indicated they were willing to reopen the process and consider other appropriate sites for the bus transfer facility.

As of Monday, June 8, CU still had not cancelled a June 11 court date, in which they plan to ask a bankruptcy court to separate Spence's property on St. Louis Street from her other assets so that they can move to condemn it, the first step to acquiring a property through eminent domain.

A visit to the Federal Transit Administration's ARRA Main Page confirms that July 1, 2009 is the "Deadline for submitting first round grants to the DOL for review."

The good news for City Utilities is that they appear to have more time than they have reported. Rather than approximately one week to submit their application, it appears they have roughly three weeks time in which to submit the application. It might have been better for them, however, had they focused on property more available than Spence's property, protected, as it were, by a bankruptcy court.

According to the City advisory, the Council will decide, on Tuesday, June 9, whether to reschedule the special meeting to hear citizen input on the proposed use of eminent domain for 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 10, in Council Chambers at the Historic City Hall.

Spence is convinced they have her interests at heart. "The Mayor and City Council has assured me that they will take a strong stand against the use of eminent domain on my site and they are for economic development," Spence said.


Writer's note: I made an effort to contact CU Communications Supervisor Joel Alexander today. His office said he would be out of town until Tuesday. In consideration of CU's presentation to the City Council tomorrow at noon, I did not feel it appropriate to hold this entry. I'll be happy to update the information at a later date, as always. - Jackie


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