City eyes federal stimulus cash

March 9, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

City officials said Issaquah is not likely to see a slice of federal stimulus money — at least not yet.

The first round of funding from the $787 billion package directed money to construction, infrastructure and social services projects across the country. Officials pushed for the proposed Interstate 90 Undercrossing to be included among the projects considered for stimulus cash. But regional planners recommended projects closer to breaking ground.

Though the undercrossing proposal received high marks from the Puget Sound Regional Council, unresolved right-of-way issues kept the project from receiving the planners’ blessing.

Officials said Issaquah would instead focus on garnering stimulus dollars for environmental projects, such as weatherizing homes.

“We’d love to take some of the money, but our best bet is with the sustainability group,” Public Works Engineering Director Bob Brock said.

The stimulus package includes $5 billion to make homes and buildings more energy efficient. Details about how the money will be distributed are still vague. In the meantime, city staffers are working to identify programs to harness some of those dollars.

“What money is coming down the road?” Resource Conservation Office Manager David Fujimoto asked. “How’s it going to be available and what can we use it for?”

He listed three projects as possibilities for federal aid: Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72; a YWCA low-income housing project; and zHome, a townhouse development designed to produce as much electricity as it consumes. Each of the projects was designed with eco-friendly features. But the slumping economy has slowed development. The zHome project is stalled because its developer ran into trouble with financing for the project.

Money to weatherize homes and improve energy efficiency is also a key piece of the stimulus plan. City officials, who are working to improve the city’s environmental record, want federal money to help pick up the tab.

“We’d love to be able to set up a program to help residents in Issaquah weatherize homes,” Fujimoto said.

Ideally, stimulus money could also be directed to existing sustainability programs, he said.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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