Tuesday, May 26, 2009
A city in Rhode Island -- state unemployment rate: 11.1% -- is finding out stimulus dollars don't really stick in their town.
Paula Daigneau makes $18.60 an hour directing traffic for the repaving of Main Road in Tiverton, a town of 15,000 in eastern Rhode Island. She says that�s twice what she would have earned doing chores on a friend�s farm.How much of the $2.4 million stays in Tiverton? �A lot of this depends on how much add-on spending goes into the project. �A road gets torn up, so local businesses lose work in the short run. �
�The jobs were getting pretty limited,� said Daigneau, 51, a flagger who signals drivers with a sign she pivots from �Stop� to �Slow.�
Daigneau and 31 full-time co-workers are beneficiaries of President Barack Obama�s $787 billion spending program aimed at reviving the U.S. economy. To Michael D�Ambra, president of the construction company that landed the $2.4 million contract, the Main Road project shows the effort is succeeding.
�It appears that the stimulus is doing its job,� D�Ambra said. �It�s putting people to work.�
To critics, the Tiverton project, which is scheduled to end in September, illustrates the stimulus program�s weaknesses: They say it may be creating too few jobs, too slowly, for too short a time.
Once the stimulus money is spent, �that�s the end of it,� said Harry Staley, chairman of the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition, a group that advocates responsible government spending. He said he�s concerned that the money is going to �projects that are not in fact critical� and won�t provide a long-lasting boost to the economy.
National Grid Plc, which distributes electricity and natural gas, is doing gas line maintenance as Main Road is resurfaced, but that work would have been done anyhow and hasn�t required any new hiring, said company spokesman David Graves. National Grid�s U.S. headquarters is in Westborough, Massachusetts.Many people driving I-94 this month have begun to experience road delays as well (one trip to Plymouth from St. Cloud at midday was 45 minutes longer due to construction near Rogers), a cost which is not factored into the multiplier calculation. �Neither is the lost business of Ms. Rapoza. �The federal government isn't as worried about where the job creation happens (Massachusetts and Rhode Island voters both vote for president) but the impact on towns is very uneven. �
The road workers, from Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts, aren�t spending much money in Tiverton because most pack their lunches for their 30-minute lunch break, said D�Ambra, the construction company�s head.
Aside from renting an office and buying fuel, �I don�t think we really bring a lot of dollars and cents into that town,� said D�Ambra, whose company is based in Warwick, Rhode Island, about 35 miles from Tiverton.
�What the project�s going to mean to me is short-term, we may lose business,� said Doreen Rapoza, co-owner of the Hair Reflections salon. �But after, it may do well because more people will be walking with sidewalks.�