Smyrna Mayor Pat Stombaugh and Town Manager Dave Hugg welcomed state and national leaders to town today to highlight drinking water improvements that were made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), commonly referred to as "stimulus funds."
They also announced that the town has received two low-interest loans totaling $3.4 million from the USDA Rural Development Program to construct water, sewer, and electric utilities north of Duck Creek to service homes, businesses, and a proposed business park.
U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons (both D-Del.), USDA Rural Development State Director Jack Tarburton, and Thom May of the Delaware Division of Public Health all spoke at the ceremony, which was held just west of Route 13 near McDonald's and the Dunkin' Donuts/Subway. The site will be where a large drilling rig will soon be tunneling under Duck Creek to install the utility lines to service the areas north of the waterway.
The projects all started in 2009 when over $3.7 million in ARRA funds were allotted to the Town of Smyrna. The Division of Public Health State Revolving Loan Program estimated that approximately 80 jobs were created as a result of the Smyrna projects.
Mayor Stombaugh said that during these challenging economic times, the funding is greatly appreciated for the water improvement projects and to run new lines to service properties including the business park north of Duck Creek.
"This is something that will bring in businesses and revenue for the town," she said. "The proposed business park...we hope will bring a lot of jobs."
She thanked the state agencies and the USDA for their assistance and thanked Senators Carper and Coons for their "loyal support."
"There has been a lot of controversy about these projects. Some have asked why it's taken so long and some have asked why we're spending money on these projects now, when budgets are so tight," said Stombaugh. "The reason to do the projects now is the cost is lower, the loan rates are lower, and it would be foolish not to. Some have said to wait. Wait for what — for construction costs to go up, for interest rates to go up?"
She acknowledged that it's difficult to see the town spending money on projects during tough economic conditions.
"I know what it's like to struggle, too, but I also know what it means to have quality of life. People with failing septic systems don't have quality of life," she said. "We just had a distillery that has decided to locate its operations in Smyrna and we asked why, and they said because you have the best water in the state. I was impressed by that. Clean water is important to our quality of life, and it's also something that's bringing business to Smyrna."
Tom Manager Hugg highlighted the fact that two of the water projects in Smyrna were the first two projects started and completed in Delaware with the federal stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"We're here to celebrate the success of the ARRA," said Hugg. "We wouldn't have been able to do what we've done without the help from the Office of Drinking Water and Delaware Health and Social Services. They've been very helpful with a lot of the planning and the initiatives we've taken, some of which we weren't aware of, but now we've been able to accomplish with their help."
Sen. Coons looked at the maps on display at the ceremony that detailed the projects and said, "These are not just lines on a map. These are lines of connection to build the future growth of Smyrna, to make possible the vision of the business park."
Coons said some people may ask why in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression would the federal government partner with the town and spend money on these projects. Belief in the resiliency of Americas is the answer.
"It's what we've always done," said Coons. "We built the Hoover Dam in the middle of the Great Depression. It's projects like these that provide jobs, opportunities, and partnerships so Americans can lift themselves up."
"Every Delawarean deserves access to clean, safe drinking water," he said, "and when we can meet that goal while creating jobs and upgrading infrastructure at the same time, it's a win-win."
Sen. Carper complimented the town officials and employees, the state agencies and employees, and the federal programs and employees for their cooperation in accomplishing these projects.
"I get asked all the time, 'Why can't Washington be more like Delaware?'" Carper said. "Because in Delaware, we focus on getting things done."
In addition to ensuring clean, safe drinking water, Carper said the projects were about "jobs, jobs, jobs."
"Through help from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which I was proud to support, and the USDA Rural Development Office, the town of Smyrna was able to accomplish these infrastructure improvements on behalf of their residents," he said.
USDA Rural Development State Director Jack Tarburton said nothing is more critical for the development of strong communities than reliable, clean and abundant water.
"This year USDA is commemorating 150 years working with Americans to protect the land," he said. "At the same time, USDA is looking to the future. We know an economy built to last will rely on the health of our natural resources."
Thom May, section chief for health systems protection for the Division of Public Health, said his division has distributed about $19.8 million in federal stimulus funds, with the vast majority, about $18.6 million, going for drinking water system improvements like the ones that have been done in Smyrna.
"We led the nation with the first projects that were started and completed, right here in Smyrna," May said. "I'm glad to have been a part of this project to help protect the health of the people in Smyrna and throughout Delaware."