WRAL Investigates

Some question stimulus projects' impact on N.C.

Posted September 30, 2009
Updated October 1, 2009

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— The federal stimulus package promises more than $6 billion in direct aid to North Carolina. Much of the money is spent on things such as transportation, clean water and education.

Some projects are creating construction jobs and fuel for the economy, such as a new National Guard Headquarters in Raleigh and numerous road projects.

However, a WRAL investigation into a few stimulus projects has raised questions about their impact on the state.

Roanoke River Lighthouse Some stimulus projects questioned

See a county-by-county breakdown of where stimulus money is being spent.

The Roanoke River Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1940 and is one of the last lighthouses still standing on an inland waterway. The North Carolina Department of Transportation awarded $1.2 million to renovate the lighthouse, which now sits on Edenton’s historic waterfront.

Supporters say it will boost tourism for the town.

“Heritage tourism brings new people, and with those new people, they spend money in the community. So I think it fits the stimulus perfectly,” said Edenton Town Manager Anne Marie Knighton.

Part of the challenge for Chowan County was finding a DOT project that could be finished in three years, which is a rule of the stimulus package. The money is also divided into categories. Chowan County received money for schools, but could use more, school officials said.

The lighthouse project comes from the DOT funds. It is part of the state's history of transportation, and it was a project that could turn quickly.

“This is a national program that we’re trying to fit in Chowan County,” said Dempsey Benton, who serves as North Carolina’s stimulus czar with the Office of Economic Recovery & Investment.

Benton said he also wanted to make sure every county received its fair share, especially places like Chowan where unemployment is high.

“If we don’t use the funds and say ‘No, thank you,’ then the next September, the funds will be reallocated to another state,” he said.

Another $3 million will go to painting the Umstead Bridge over the Croatan Sound in Dare County. It was essentially replaced seven years ago with the $100 million Virginia Dare Bridge because the older bridge couldn't handle heavy traffic.

The Umstead Bridge now mostly handles local traffic.

Investment adviser Ken Bell said he thinks Congress could've better directed the rules and the money.

“I think it makes more sense to have communities have more control and have them spend it in a manner that’s going to benefit them the most,” said Bell, president of Aspera Financial.

Just like the National Guard headquarters, both projects met a government mandate that projects be shovel ready. It's up to taxpayers to decide if the projects are necessary.

Thursday on the WRAL News at 6:

WRAL Investigates reporter Kelcey Carlson follows the money trail on several smaller projects and sits down with the state's stimulus czar for his take.

If you have any tips on waste or fraud, contact the WRAL Investigates team. Call 1-877 WRAL TIP or e-mail investigates@wral.com.


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  • jet2rdu Oct 1, 2009

    Jobs are disappearing in North Carolina. Perhaps the stimulus money in NC is being spendt on projects selected by the same people who created this mess in the first place. The only difference is they are spending "DC Green Tax Dollars" instead of "NC Blue Dollars". In any case it is your taxes and you children's and grandchildren's future taxes. Thank you Washington.

    Go Green - Recycle Congress in 2010

  • mpheels Oct 1, 2009

    ranquick, the bridge being painted is more that 7 years old. The 7 year old bridge referred to in the article is the Virginia Dare bridge that lets beach-bound motorists bypass Manteo. I essentially "replaced" the old bridge for beach traffic, but the old bridge is still in use for traffic to/from Manteo.

    The bridge being repainted is the Umstead bridge further north, the old one that takes people to Fort Raleigh then through Manteo.

    I'm not saying painting the bridge is a great use of stimulus money (though it will keep people employed, if only temporarily), just noting that the project itself is a needed improvement.

  • Gaz Oct 1, 2009

    Tens of thousands of jobs created by the economic stimulus law could end up filled by illegal immigrants, particularly in big states such as California where undocumented workers are heavily represented in construction, experts on both sides of the issue say.
    Studies by two conservative think tanks estimate immigrants in the United States illegally could take 300,000 construction jobs, or 15% of the 2 million jobs that new taxpayer-financed projects are predicted to create.

  • HanginTough Oct 1, 2009

    Where is the 2.9 trillion a misrepresentation of facts...of course this does not include the cost of government taking over the healthcare industry. The 209 trillion figure has been in the news media for months - shocking I know - since they were the majority of the reason this POSER got voted into office - still so many on the kool aid IV...

  • mep Oct 1, 2009

    You can't quadruple the national debt without spending some money... even if it is spent on pork and waste.

  • Lyle Oct 1, 2009

    Obama will rid the world of nuclear weapons (nucular for some of you) and funnel stimulus money to the cure for cancer in the coming 7 years.

    Quite an accomplishment for a man many said was "unqualified". There will be much, much more good to come, even to benefit those of you who hate what the man stands for.

  • Lyle Oct 1, 2009

    lbzebulon, the stimulus money was supposed to get YOU back to work? That would be in lieu of any skills, training or qualifications you lack, correct?

    That's like saying I'm still working because I voted FOR Obama. Which I did. Coincidence??

  • diana123 Oct 1, 2009

    painting a bridge. that's a highly intelligent manner in which to spend the stimulus package!

  • time4real Oct 1, 2009

    why would anyone question it? Bev said it was good for us and she's in charge. i feel so complete knowing she's there for us.

  • wildervb Oct 1, 2009

    "Waste, waste, waste. Since Jan, Obama has spent $2.9 Trillion dollars. For those keeping track, that's double the size of the most bloated budget under GW. That's 3-times what the Iraq war and GWOT combined has cost us in 8 years."

    I see you're making up "facts" again Worland.