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Some Arizona cities concerned about stimulus share

PHOENIX – Cities and towns in Arizona soon will get their piece of the federal $787 billion economic-stimulus package, but without large populations or lobbyists to campaign in Washington, some smaller municipalities are feeling left out.

Leaders of smaller cities and towns are concerned they’re being bypassed for millions of dollars in federal stimulus grants, and they believe that the money allocated to them won’t be enough to rouse the local economy.

For example, Phoenix was approved for $35.4 million. Litchfield Park west of Phoenix got less than $1 million.

“There is nothing we can spend that money on,” Litchfield Park Mayor Thomas Schoaf said. “I have a problem with that.”

Maricopa County’s regional government directed $104 million in federal stimulus dollars appropriated to the county for transportation projects. The regional council gave each municipality a base sum of $500,000 plus an added percentage based on population.

Schoaf, who also is vice chairman of the council, said using population as a base to distribute stimulus money could fail.

He said many cities and towns will use the funds for smaller projects that don’t fulfill the ultimate goal of the stimulus package — create jobs and jump-start the economy.

“This money should not have been spent on little projects in a jurisdiction that will benefit … only in a few years,” Schoaf said.

Fountain Hills northeast of Phoenix has the same problem.

In a recent trip to the nation’s capital, Fountain Hills Mayor Jay Schlum implored Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl to support towns that do not have the money to compete for extra funds.

Fountain Hills, with a population of just over 26,000, needs new roadways, sidewalks and sewer lines, according to a document prepared by the town.

“Many of the larger cities have lobbyists living in D.C., and towns do not have the resources to put someone on the Hill every day,” Schlum said in a statement. “As a result, I wanted to ask our congressional delegation to be our voice.”

In the document, Fountain Hills officials urged state representatives to make sure other cities “do not receive all the funds just because they have larger populations.”

Buckeye spokesman Bob Bushner said his town, which will benefit from an Interstate 10 project, is pleased with what appears to be instant payoff from the stimulus package

“Right off the top, we’ve seen some positive impact,” he said. “It’s good and refreshing to know.”

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