April 1, 2009
Let the stimulus money spending begin
Now that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been signed into law, the states’ governing bodies have hit the drawing boards to wrestle out how best to spend their portions of the stimulus monies. However, President Obama is demanding accountability and issued a stern warning during a Washington press conference that the money not be wasted. “The American people are watching,” Obama told a gathering of mayors at the White House, according to a Yahoo! News article. “They need this plan to work. They expect to see the money that they’ve earned – they’ve worked so hard to earn – spent in its intended purposes without waste, without inefficiency, without fraud.”
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and the chairmen of the Subcommittees on Highways and Transit and Water Resources and Environment are pledging “vigorous oversight” of the transportation infrastructure funds. According to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association’s (NSSGA) eDigest & Washington Watch newsletter, the committee sent more than 450 letters to governors, transit agencies, and metropolitan planning organizations requesting that recipients of the funds certify that they will use the recovery monies as intended in the law and asked for specific information about the projects that would be funded under the act, including a list of all projects or activities, total cost, and rationale for funding; the number of projects that have been put out to bid, are under contract, are underway, or have been completed; and the number of directly related jobs created or sustained.
States are eager to start spending the stimulus money. According to an article in Reuters, small towns and big cities alike are rushing to put together a wide array of project proposals. In California, there are $44 billion in “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects to pick from. In Ohio, Cincinnati city leaders have $333 million in projects they say could create 3,700 jobs, including a $5.2-million airport upgrade they say would create 60 jobs and $2.5 million for street improvements in a low-income area that could create 53 jobs. Fort Worth, Texas, officials want to use $471 million for a regional rail project and $177 million to improve the city sewage system. In Iowa, officials have a list of more than 4,000 economic development projects that could be started quickly with adequate funding.
However, not everyone agrees on where or how the money should be spent. According to an article in the New York Times, Kansas plans to concentrate its money on a few new projects that its transportation secretary calls “game changers,” including expanding U.S. 69 in Overland Park, building an interchange in Wichita, rebuilding a rural highway in Gove County, and completing a corridor project that was halted due to a lack of funds. Others argue that the money should be used to fix the crumbling infrastructure that already exists.
On the other hand, Maryland plans to take a fix-it-first approach. The state plans to put some 10,000 people to work resurfacing dozens of roads, painting and repairing bridges, and putting in guardrails.
No matter which projects are chosen by the aforementioned governing bodies, the aggregates industry will reap the benefits – that’s really good news.
The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) announced the recipients of its National Stars of Excellence awards. The awards are presented to those operations earning two or more awards – Safety Excellence Award, Environmental Excellence Gold Award, Excellence in Community Relations Gold Award – over a five-year period. Each operation is awarded a number of stars corresponding to the number of awards won.
“Our 2008 National Stars of Excellence winners have every reason to be proud of their achievements,” said NSSGA Chairman of the Board Steve Sloan, president and CEO of Midwest Minerals, Inc., in an association press release. “I congratulate each of these seven operations for their commitment to being outstanding corporate citizens and supporting their communities.”
* Friendship Quarry (Lafarge), Buford, Ga.
* Shalersville Sand & Gravel (Lafarge), Mantua, Ohio.
* Douglasville Quarry (Lafarge), Douglasville, Ga.
* Texas Quarry (Lafarge), Cockeysville, Md.
* Spotsylvania Plant (Luck Stone Corp.), Fredericksburg, Va.
* Notasulga Quarry (Vulcan Materials Co.), Loachapoka, Ala.
* Tuscumbia Quarry (Vulcan Materials Co.), Tuscumbia, Ala.
The seven winners were recognized during an awards ceremony at NSSGA’s Annual Convention last month.
Barry Wendt award winner named
The NSSGA named Randy J. Kremer, vice president-manager of construction materials for Watsonville, Calif.-based Granite Construction, Inc., as the recipient of the 12th annual Barry K. Wendt Memorial Commitment Award for his dedication to the construction aggregates industry, his family, and his community.
“It is fitting that such a respected leader of our industry is honored with the Wendt Commitment Award,” said NSSGA President and CEO Joy Wilson in an association press release. “We are deeply thankful for his efforts at NSSGA and, undoubtedly, he has helped better not only ours, but all of the organizations in which he has become involved.”
The award is named for Barry K. Wendt (1946-1997), a Cedarapids, Inc. employee and industry leader who was universally recognized as a leader in the aggregates industry. Each year, the award goes to an individual who exemplifies the qualities of leadership and commitment demonstrated by Wendt. It is the association’s highest individual honor and service award.
Phoenix Process Equipment Co., Louisville, celebrated its 25th anniversary in February. A Department of Energy grant helped fund the development of the company’s initial technology, which fostered the development of its core product line, a high-capacity dewatering filter for dewatering fine particle slurries. According to a company press release, the success of this dewatering technology established the foundation that led Phoenix to become an international leader in the supply of liquid/solid separation and residuals dewatering equipment.