Laura Blackann, communications director for Rep. John Doolittle, said Friday she was not clear in explaining earlier this week why Nevada County did not receive any portion of Congress' most recent spending bill.
"They requested several projects, none of which would qualify," she said. "The projects were not eligible for the bill. Had they asked for a project that qualified, we would have done anything in our power to help them."
The bill, known in its official form as the "Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, Judiciary and District of Columbia Appropriations bill for the fiscal year 2006," allocated $65.9 billion for projects nationwide.
Doolittle (R-Rocklin) secured $3 million for eight projects throughout District 4. After a story published in Thursday's The Union reported that none of those funds fell within Nevada County borders, Blackann called the newspaper to say the story was incomplete and that "Nevada County didn't receive any money because they didn't ask for any."
After an editorial in Friday's The Union urged local officials to be more proactive in getting money, however, several Nevada County officials responded by saying Blackann's comments were not true.
"The county begged. We said we'll do anything for money for Dorsey Drive," said Nevada City's mayor, Conley Weaver, who is also on the Nevada County Transportation Commission.
Weaver said Nevada City, Grass Valley and Nevada County all passed resolutions asking Doolittle to seek federal funding for the Dorsey Drive project.
That project was also one of 11 mentioned in a Feb. 25 letter to Doolittle from the City of Grass Valley seeking such funds. That letter proved to be a success for one project - $50,000 was given to the police department for a canine unit program, under a different appropriations bill.
Blackann said there were 10 appropriations bills and one federal highway bill under which these requests could have fallen, but none qualified for the most recent one. She apologized for the confusion.
Nevada County's mistake in its bid for federal funding may have been that it asked for too much money at once.
"They told us it was such a large project that it didn't fit, but we will take anything," Dan Landon, executive director of the Nevada County Transportation Commission, said Friday.
Blackann said "the Dorsey Drive project was submitted by the city for $11 million. It is such a large project it needed to be funded through the highway bill. (The most recent appropriations bill) doesn't fund projects that large."
Placer County asked for $5 million to go toward the $253 million Highway 65 Lincoln Bypass project, which would stretch the freeway around the city of Lincoln. And, so far this year, it has received $3 million in federal funding.
"Every year we ask for $5 million and we are always happy with whatever we get," said Sue Sholtiz, the administrative assistant for the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency.
This includes $2.3 million in the August federal transportation bill - the same bill that Blackann said the Dorsey Drive project would be better suited for - according to the Lincoln News Messenger. That project also received $700,000 in the most recent appropriations bill, for which Blackann said Dorsey Drive was too large.
Blackann said the Dorsey Drive project might be higher on the representative's priority list in 2006.
"The congressman is going to try for the Dorsey Drive project next year," she said.
Lobbyist an answer?
"The only opinion I have is, maybe the squeakiest wheel gets greased," said Weaver. "Maybe our wheel wasn't squeaky enough."
It also doesn't hurt to have a lobbyist, which Landon said he was told recently by Doolittle's staff.
"For the '07 appropriations process, the congressman's staff has encouraged us to seek help," he said, adding that he plans to alert his county and city officials to this important opportunity.
Sharon Atteberry, city administrator for the city of Oroville, which received $450,000 in the recent spending bill, said she had also been urged to hire a lobbyist by Doolittle's staff. She said she personally went to Doolittle's office in Roseville to ask for the money. She said she thought that probably helped.
"They encouraged us that a lobbyist is very important to any city or county government," she said. "We will consider that in the future."
The Placer County Transportation Authority has had a lobbyist for three years now, Sholtiz said.
Blackann didn't have any specific tips on the best way to funding requests to be heard, but she did say that "in January, one of our appropriations staffers is going to meet with the county and talk about some practical ways that that can improve the likelihood of (receiving) funding."
She said that county staff members requested the meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.
Rep. John Doolittle's office said Friday that Nevada County has received federal funding in 2006:
Projects funded by the Federal Highway Bill:
- $2.8 million for the "Mousehole project," the widening of Highway 89 in Truckee
- $777,747 to help develop a Gold Country Stage Transit transfer center in downtown Grass Valley
- $71.6 million for I-80 corridor improvements
Projects funded by various Appropriations Bills:
" From the Science, Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill
- $100,000 for Nevada County Mobile Data Computer System
- $50,000 for the City of Grass Valley Police Department K-9 Unit
- $1.5 million for California Methamphetamine Strategy, a state-wide program for which Nevada County is eligible.
" From the Energy and Water Appropriations bill
- $5 million for Renewable Energy Production Incentive Program, a nationwide initiative for which the Truckee Donner Public Utilities District is eligible.
Source: Laura Blackann, communications director for Congressman John Doolittle.
To contact staff writer Brittany Retherford, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4247.