Twin Lakes Street Rehab Makes List of 100 Worst Stimulus Projects

MacIver News Service | August 3, 2010

A landscaping project in the village of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin has made the list of the 100 worst projects funded by the Stimulus Act.

United States Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ) have issued a report, Summertime Blues, which details 100 projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“When Congress passed the $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, otherwise known  as the stimulus bill, it passed with assurances that it would stem the loss of American jobs and keep the economy from floundering,” the Senators write in the report’s introduction. “Eighteen months since the law’s passage, millions of jobs are still gone and the economy is as uncertain as  ever. The only thing getting a boost is our national debt – the stimulus has helped push it 23 percent  higher, to $13.2 trillion, a new record.”

The Twin Lakes projects was ranked 22nd, and was included in the list because the project ccaused economic hardship at the worst possible time.

“Worst of all, some stimulus projects are actually costing jobs and hurting small businesses.  By largely closing off access to local shops to build some of the stimulus projects, some business owners have had to cut staff hours, and let people go,” the Senators wrote.

From the report:

Several local business owners in the Village of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin were surprised to learn that a beautification project on East Main Street in the heart of downtown would begin the week before July  4th weekend.  That’s because it intersected with the town’s annual Libertyfest, whose parade route passes their stores, driving good business their way.  Unfortunately, East Main Street has been closed down until the end of October to complete a stimulus project.  Adding insult to injury, the parade was rerouted to another part of town.

The report notes the project adversely impacted the very business owners it was supposed to help.

In the case of Jane Bodi, owner of  Bodi’s Bake Shop, her shop on Main Street was dealt a heavy blow when  the road in front of her store was  closed.  “Business was way down the first week,” she noted with frustration.  Since the project began, she has had to reduce employee hours  and offer special discounts just to try and account for the lost business.

At a local pub, a single mother of three who waits tables has also felt the impact of the project.  Aside  from having her hours and pay cut, she says she was forced to list her house for sale and look for a new  home 26 miles away, where prices are more affordable.  According to this waitress, who wished to  remain anonymous, July is the biggest time of year for business in Twin Lakes because it features both  Libertyfest and Country Thunder.

The list of 100 worst projects includes putting in new windows at a vacant government building, replacing a new sidewalk with an even newer one, and spending money for a park that is only accessible by boat or plane.  

Coburn and McCain said that some projects that appear in the report may have merit, but are being mismanaged or were poorly planned.  They cite a biomass power plant that was awarded hundreds of thousands of stimulus dollars, but may close in months, and a rail line to two professional sports stadiums— that is hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and only “shovel ready” because it was years behind schedule when funding came available.

See the entire report, here.