The thrust of this Amy Anthony article in the Associated Press seems to be that Rhode Islanders should be concerned that our state government isn’t spending federal money quickly enough on waterworks, but I’m more disconcerted by the intended use:
Rhode Island is the farthest off track of all the states from meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s goal of spending the money in a key drinking water program by next year’s deadline, according to federal data reviewed by The Associated Press.
The state has more than $16 million sitting unspent from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund — 9.4 percent of what it has been allocated — putting Rhode Island above the national average of 6.2 percent. …
But state officials insist they’ll have the backlog used up by September 2016, largely because of a $26.6-million loan for a new building for Providence Water.
The building in question won’t really be part of the state’s water infrastructure. It won’t be used to process water in any way, but to house government: “A spokeswoman for Providence Water has said the water supplier wants a new operations facility to consolidate its operations and be located more centrally in the capital city.”
In July, Dan McGowan reported on WPRI that Providence Water was actually looking into a $39 million bond in order to buy and renovate the desired building, so from a strictly fiscal perspective, it would seem to be better to have federal taxpayers pay the $26.6 million outright without tacking on another $12 million or so in financing fees and giving local ratepayers the bill. That said, are administrative buildings really what people are thinking about when taxpayers approve federal programs to improve drinking water?
(I know, I know. It’s laughable to think that our behemoth of a federal government actually operates with taxpayer approval, at this level, but it’s fun to pretend from time to time.)