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Selma to hear fate of stimulus projects tonight

Local officials hope to learn more Tuesday about President Barack Obama’s federal stimulus package. State finance director James Main will host a forum on the subject at 5:30 p.m. in Selma City Hall. Local officials will be able to voice concerns and ask questions about funding from the $787 billion package.

“I have three questions,” Mayor George Evans said. “How much will the city of Selma get, when will we get the money, and if it’s not available, why? That’s what I’d like to know.”

The Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission facilitated the forum to aid local officials in the 10 counties it serves. Assistant director Frank Dobson said the ATRC wants to provide officials with plenty of information before the funds come pouring out of Montgomery.

“We just want to make sure that they have any and all resources available to them,” Dobson said.

The ATRC was founded in 1970 to increase area-wide cooperation between local government leaders in southwest Alabama. In order to do this, the commission focuses on five areas: identifying and studying problems, functions and services, reviewing and coordinating plans and proposals of local and regional government, supporting local government by trying to make it more effective and efficient, involving local officials in regional and local functions, and assisting local government in recruiting new industry and working with existing industry to create new jobs.

Director of the EDA Wayne Vardaman said explaining the stimulus package could be one of the commission’s toughest jobs. Vardaman said no one seems to know which agency will distribute the money if any of the city’s 10 projects for stimulus money are accepted.

“As of yet, we really haven’t seen anything,” he said.

The city’s proposed projects include: stabilization of neighborhoods by rehabilitating foreclosed homes, infrastructure installation for the Riverfront Project, installation of other amenities and features for the Riverfront Project, replacement of sewer and storm drainage lines, restoration of the historic Lovelady Building, hiring new police officers, restoration of the Selma Interpretive Center, renovation of the Selma Interpretive Center, resurfacing of streets and installation of new traffic lights, and dredging the Alabama River and cleaning its banks.

Vardaman said he expects to learn the fate of these projects at the forum.

“It appears it’s going to be informative,” he said of the forum. “He’ll tell us what he’s go and how it will be allocated.”

Dobson said Dallas County is in dire need of the jobs the projects funded by the stimulus package would create. According the Department of Labor, Dallas County’s unemployment rate was 18.1 percent in March. That is the second highest in the state, behind only Wilcox County.

If money is available for ATRC counties, Dobson said he wants to make sure officials know what agencies have it.

“You got to know where to got to acquire that money,” he said. “We want to make sure our people have a shot at them.”