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Sharon fighting for stimulus money

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ANN MARIE AMES
December 18, 2009
— Rep. Paul Ryan is joining the village of Sharon to fight the loss of $547,000 in stimulus money used to build a stormwater retention system.

Sharon applied for and got a stimulus grant. But in late October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified the village that it was no longer qualified for the grant because contracts had been signed before Oct. 1, 2008.


The work already is done.


Construction costs added up to $1.3 million, a large sum when compared to the village's normal annual budget of $1.5 million, village President Diana Dykstra said.


For a time, it looked as though the village would have to take out a loan to pay for the portion of construction not covered by stimulus money. That would have meant a big increase in the village tax levy in 2010.


But the board decided against that, Dykstra said. Instead, the village will fight to keep the stimulus money.


The rules governing the use of stimulus money are complex. Some costs were allowed. If a municipality paid out-of-pocket for expenses such as planning or design before Oct. 1, 2008, the costs could have been reimbursable, according to the e-mail sent to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


The Gazette obtained a copy of the e-mail.


But those costs are eligible "as long as no construction costs or debt obligations were incurred and no construction contracts signed prior to Oct. 1, 2008," the e-mail states.


Construction started Sept. 23, 2008, according to the e-mail.


Dykstra disagrees, saying ground wasn't broken until after Oct. 1, 2008.


Ryan's office has written two letters to the EPA about the issue.


In the first letter dated Nov. 4, Ryan, a Janesville Republican, asked the EPA to help the village appeal its decision.


"The village cannot afford to absorb this significant expense, and because they believe they have met and still continue to meet all of the grant requirements, they do not believe their grant funds should be rescinded by the EPA," Ryan's letter states.


In a second letter dated Dec. 2, Ryan reminded the EPA that the village would not have taken on the project without the grant money.


"To rescind a grant award after it was announced and after a project was completed under the assumption that those funds would be paid would be economically devastating to this small community," the letter states.


As of Thursday afternoon, Ryan's office had not gotten a response from the EPA, spokesman Conor Sweeney said.


The EPA also reversed funding decisions for the city of Fond du Lac and the village of Brokaw, which is on the Wisconsin River north of Wausau.


Dykstra said Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, also is fighting the loss of the stimulus money.



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