Web Site Lets S.C. Keep Eye on Stimulus

February 19, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveSouth Carolinians are making their voices heard on a wide array of stimulus projects, from spending hundreds of millions of dollars improving roads and infrastructure throughout the state to building buoys for use by the Army Corps of Engineers.

They’re doing it through a Web site called Stimulus Watch, which lists 845 stimulus projects that have been approved for funding in South Carolina under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

They range from $1.4 billion for the deactivation of two nuclear reactors at the Savannah River Site to $4,005 for a fishing pier to be installed near McBee.

Other stimulus funding that has taken place in South Carolina include $27.5 million to replace a bridge on the Little Pee Dee River and an $11.1 million grant “to provide homeless prevention assistance to households who would otherwise become homeless and to rapidly re-house individuals and families who are currently homeless.”

And more than $50 million was awarded to the S.C. Energy Office for grants and loans to school districts, public universities and state agencies to improve energy efficiency through building retrofits.

Those funds will also be used for a manufactured housing/residential energy-efficiency study, grants to non-profits for renewable energy projects and advanced vehicle technologies, industry incentives for new or expanding businesses that improve energy efficiency or support renewable energy deployment; and an energy efficiency training collaborative.

In all, $3.8 billion in projects have been approved in South Carolina.

Stimulus Watch was created after the passage of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act nearly a year ago.

Stimulus Watch was built to help the Obama administration keep its pledge to invest stimulus dollars wisely and to hold public officials accountable for taxpayer money spent, according to information found on the Web site.

It does this by allowing citizens with specific knowledge about the proposed projects to discuss, monitor and rate projects.

The Stimulus Watch site, which lists only stimulus funding that has actually taken place, is unusual in that it’s interactive.

It not only allows users to add information about local projects, it enables them to vote on projects, letting them voice their opinion on the whether the project in question is critical. Results are shown on the project page, including the number of votes cast and the percentage of votes on each side.

Voting has been sparse on the site, which is actually the second iteration of Stimulus Watch and went online in November. The earlier version of Stimulus Watch listed projects that had been proposed, many of which received hundreds of votes apiece.

In South Carolina a $50,000 award to “support the preservation of jobs that are threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn” in Charleston has been the least popular under the new site, garnering a 89 percent negative rating.

By contrast, a $58.9 million grant for “supplemental funding for weatherization assistance to low-income persons” has a 100 percent approval rate.

The site is not affiliated with any group or organization but was created by Jerry Brito and Eileen Norcross of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; Peter Snyder, a contract programmer; and Kevin Dwyer, of White Oak Technologies.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022, ext. 110, or kevin@scpolicycouncil.com.