WRAL Investigates

N.C. stimulus director discusses projects

Posted October 1, 2009

— The governor’s mansion in Raleigh is where important decisions are made and big deals are brokered. But across the street, the fate of $6 billion in stimulus money rests inside a small, quaint building which houses the state’s Office of Economic Recovery & Investment.

North Carolina stimulus director Dempsey Benton is in charge of watching the money and said his goal is to use the funds to get people jobs and spark the economy.

WRAL Investigates State stimulus director discusses projects

The WRAL Investigates team looked at several stimulus projects that made the priority list and asked Benton about them.

Benton said it’s important to note that selected projects must be completed in three years.

“If (we) leave (money) on the table, a year from now (the money) will be taken by the federal government and allocated to other states,” he said.

Durham gets almost $76,000 for a streetscape project on North Duke and North Gregson streets which eliminates 29 trees and adds 103. At the contract amount, that's equal to $575 a tree. Benton said the value isn't in the trees, but the people who get the job.

“If they’re sitting on the sidelines while we’re pouring asphalt, they’re unemployed,” he said.

In Cary, $95,000 is estimated for four bus stop shelters, which is $22,000 apiece for a concrete pad, benches, a cover and solar lighting. The shelters will be at North Harrison Avenue and Maynard Drive and Kildaire Farm Road and Wrenn Drive.

Currently, there are only two bus shelters in Cary. By providing more, town officials said they can protect people who ride the bus from the elements and possibly encourage more people to use the bus system.

“These are tough economic times and people are looking for ways to save, and one way is to ride public transit,” said Ray Boylston, Cary Transit Services’ administrator.

Brasco International, the manufacturer of Cary's bus shelters, said the company is able to retain one of its jobs because Cary ordered more shelters.

Jacksonville is getting $1.5 million for public transit. Part of that will buy five new buses to replace existing ones. Also tucked into that grant is money for bus upgrades, such as automated voice stops.

Another stimulus project is the renovation of the Kitty Hawk Rest Area, which will cost $202,000.

Investment advisor Ken Bell said he thinks the spending sends the wrong message.

“I don’t think this money should be spent at all. We’re trying to maintain a level of economic activity that we should’ve never gotten into in the first place,” said Bell, who is president of Aspera Financial.

North Carolina State University professor Robert Handfield said it will take more than a stimulus package to get a jump start.

“In this case, it’s a combination of both the stimulus help in the short term and there is going to have to be a lot of growth from other sectors including consumer and spending,” said Handfield, who is a distinguished professor of supply chain management.

The spending isn't finished, Benton said. Many projects are contracting out for less than expected, meaning more projects will be completed. Benton said the projects are working and creating jobs.

He is also making the process transparent by putting all the projects online. People can report waste and fraud there as well. So far, Benton said there are few complaints.

The WRAL Investigates team also wants to hear from you if you see waste or fraud. Call 1-877-WRAL TIP, or e-mail investigates@wral.com.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • boatrokr Oct 2, 2009

    Those people in Cary will not give up their Lexus to ride the bus! Restoring a lighthouse will not raise tourism! That's absurd! HOW STUPID DO YOU THINK WE ARE????

    These are pork-barrel and partisan projects that will do NOTHING to ease the recession.

    I'm sick of politicians using OUR MONEY to bail out industries that should be allowed to do what the average business does....GO UNDER and DIE A NATURAL DEATH. Would they give me a bailout if I ran a restaurant? I doubt it.

    Start using OUR MONEY for projects that truly create jobs and sustain the economy.

  • Weaker Pelosi Oct 2, 2009

    What does the stimulus do for white collar workers? Just wondering.

  • maydaymanny Oct 2, 2009

    PS. All those projects could be done at 1/2 the cost.

  • maydaymanny Oct 2, 2009

    How about some sidewalks to the bus stop along the Carolina Pines Route and others? Shelter is lovely. However, if the road is not safe enough to make it to the stop, we need to start with sidewalks!!!! Why is this government so idiotic about its priorities.

  • C6-YA Oct 2, 2009

    As far as I can tell, none of these projects are self sustaining. Once the projects are over, back to unemployment.
    Great plan for putting Americans back to work BO!

  • ContinuityMan Oct 2, 2009

    It's all shovel-read, all right... just like a horse stall.

  • ORMA Oct 2, 2009

    Aren't the majority of these projects short-term affairs? Wouldn't that mean that the people being put to work on them will then be unemployed again very shortly? How does that stimulate the economy?

  • yankee1 Oct 1, 2009

    All across the country the stimulus, what little has been spent, has gone to stupid projects that create short term jobs and nothing else. How many permanent jobs will be created in Durham by cutting down trees, then planting new ones in a downtown that people are too afraid to go to after dark? Think we'll have another overtime fiasco? You know, maybe 300 extra hours to water the trees! I wonder if stimulus money paid for the new handbook on the social services web site in Durham that advises illegals how to avoid being caught and what to do if they are. imagine a government entity advising people on how to break the law. Only in a city run by Demoncrats!!!

  • gcmann Oct 1, 2009

    Wow ! One job retained, not even a new one created (probably an illegal alien retained).
    "Brasco International, the manufacturer of Cary's bus shelters, said the company is able to retain one of its jobs because Cary ordered more shelters".

    How about this. We stop corporations like the one I work for, IBM, from firing American workers by the tens of thousands (over 13,000 since Jan 09 despite record profits and soaring stock prices). The jobs are not going away, the American workers are being replaced by cheap, lesser skilled workers imported from india on various scam and fraudulent visas - H-1B, L1, F1 etc..
    The Americans are forced to train their foreign replacements under threat of withholding severance pay. If a foreign worker is not imported, the American's job is simply outsourced to a whole department in india.

    Morrisville is looking like New Delhi.
    American jobs for American workers.


    20 million workers have been imported on these visas.

  • lkanzig Oct 1, 2009

    another bev's buddy?
    and by the way, the govenors mansion is where all the worthless ideas and laws in this state come from. another tax hike is looming and that temporary 1 cent tax stays.
    truly a sad little woman!