Choosing LSA projects is no simple task

January 16, 2013

Washington County Redevelopment Authority’s Local Share Account committee has been holding hearings to determine how to spend about $7 million made available from a portion of the gambling revenue from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Because there are 73 applicants seeking money for projects that would total more than $26 million, the panel has a problem. With so many worthy proposals, which ones deserve to be chosen?

Over the past week, this newspaper has published articles about some of the larger requests for LSA money: $1 million for restoration of the old YWCA building; $750,000 for renovation of the Washington Trust Building, and $1 million each to the county’s three hospitals to improve medical imaging programs.

In previous years, a good percentage of LSA money has gone for infrastructure projects like water and sewer lines. These projects lack any kind of visual satisfaction. They are not sexy, but they are worthy for the benefit they afford many households and for the development they can enable. They also fit the definition of public works.

In some cases, like that of the Trust Building, the applicant is a private developer who intends to increase occupancy and create apartments, some of which would be low-income housing. Though making LSA funds available for private business may not seem right on the surface, the panel must consider how much public good will come from the bucks, regardless of who’s receiving them.

We do not envy the task of the LSA committee. No doubt, most of the applicants will be disappointed and the panel’s decisions questioned and criticized. We can only hope that the decisions are made based on a high level of need, how beneficial the projects are to the greatest number of county residents, and how critical the LSA funds are to the completion of the projects.



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