Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Federal Building

Credit where it's due: On Saturday, BDN ran a nuanced, carefully-reported piece about a puzzling allocation of stimulus money.

It seems that $53 million is slated for renovations of a federal building in Bangor that houses (among other things) offices for Sen. Collins--and soon Sen. Snowe. The building was built for $4.5 million in 1966.

"Our roads are crumbling all around, and we're painting a federal building. It doesn't make sense," said Thomas Davis, chairman of the Penobscot County commissioners. "I can think of a bunch of things that are more deserving of this kind of money. As a taxpayer, I'm sick of money being thrown away. I don't mind spending, but this is overboard."
Neither Collins nor Snowe seems ready to criticize the project. It's hard to believe it would have been approved without input from their offices.

Of course, there may be compelling reasons for its selection: Federal control of the site may mean fewer opportunities for delays and corruption; the project may take less time to complete--and thus have more stimulative effect--than other public projects in the region; the building, which has never had a major upgrade, may be in truly dire shape.

Still, it seems a shame for so much money to go to a use that will benefit relatively few people--especially at a time when broad swaths of the population are hurting.

Nothing in the article corroborates Davis' view that money is being thrown away. But to local citizens--and officials trying to fill budget gaps--I can understand why it might feel that way.

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