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Hoschton lines up for federal stimulus funds
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HOSCHTON —The U.S. government has set aside billions of dollars in stimulus money in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Now Hoschton is in the running to receive some of this funding for city projects involving wastewater treatment and the police department.

The council voted at last week’s meeting to write a letter supporting the police department’s plans to apply for a grant that could reinstate two full-time officer positions cut from the 2009 budget.

The department was budgeted to employ five full-time officers in 2009, but if received, the grant could bring that total back to seven.

The COPS Hiring Recovery Program will award an expected 3,000 recipients with a piece of the estimated $1 billion set aside to help law enforcement agencies "create and preserve jobs and ... increase their community policing capacity and crime-prevention efforts," according to the grant Web page.

"This grant would pay for the officers’ salary, benefits and 3 percent cost-of-living increases for each year for three years," said Councilman Richard Shepherd, public safety committee chairman. "After those three years ... the city has to retain these officers for a minimum period of 12 months."

Shepherd said the money would benefit the department, which is now struggling with budget cuts and staff reductions. Its 2009 budget was cut by $96,653, and since November three full-time officers have left the department.

Councilman Richard Green said he supports grant money, but asked what would happen at the end of the three-year period if the city couldn’t afford to retain the two positions.

"This seems to be obligating us to do something that we might not be in a position to do when the grant is over," he said.

The council agreed to submit an application for the grant but revisit the issue before accepting any money that might be awarded.

Hoschton also may have a chance to remedy a wastewater treatment-related problem with the help of stimulus funding.

Green, who also is chairman of the water, waste and environmental services committee, said a project involving the city’s wastewater supervisory control and data acquisition computer system has been "tentatively approved." The city submitted a list of proposed projects, including this one, last month.

The computer system allows the pump stations to be operated from remote locations, according to Green.

"It tells him (plant operator) what’s going on in real time and lets him operate them from his home."

The city initially requested $250,000 for the project, but Green said the committee recommended that cost be reduced to $100,000, based on previous bids for previous work on the system.

If approved, the money could help repair the wastewater computer system, which Green said is "unresponsive" at times.

No final decisions have been made on whether to pursue the funding, but Green said the city will complete the application. If it receives and accepts funding, the project must be completed within two years.

The project funding is 60 percent loan and 40 percent forgiveness, with the city paying a 3 percent interest rate during the next 20 years.

"If we decided to go ahead, we could solve the city’s wastewater SCADA problems for 60 cents on the dollar," said Green. "We thought it was something worthwhile to explore."