Stimulus money used to clean up park

September 30, 2009 12:52:58 PM PDT
This week it will be 200 days since President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a massive federal program to create jobs by infusing cash into local communities. Some of that stimulus money is being used to clean up an environmental hazard in the Bay Area.

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The buzz of activity on a two acre lot in San Leandro is federal stimulus money at work.

"I'm glad to be out here, glad to be working," construction worker Robert Short said.

The $120,000 contract went to O.C. Jones and Sons out of Berkeley. The company did not hire any new employees for the job but is managing to avoid layoffs in a recession.

"We're bidding on every job we can get our hands on right now, trying to stay busy, and we're doing a pretty good job getting our share," project manager Darren Hiatt said.

For more than a decade, a former oil storage facility sat vacant, too contaminated for redevelopment.

Now, the Environmental Protection Agency is doling out a total of $200 million nationwide for these very specific shovel ready projects. California's share is nearly $16 million.

"They wouldn't be on the job today if it wasn't for the stimulus money," EPA spokesperson Steven Linder said.

There are about 150 sites across California where no one is taking responsibility for the cleanup, where the smell the gas in the dirt is in the air.

The stimulus money is aimed at creating or saving jobs and at the same time cleaning up the environment. The San Leandro site is the first of its kind in the state to benefit from the recovery act.

"We expect to start seeing, probably actually start seeing, work out in the field another dozen projects in the next 30 days so it's starting to move, it's moving," State Water Resources Control Board spokesperson Judy Reid said.

The short term economic stimulus is just the beginning. The lot will become a park and youth center, creating construction jobs and even more employment down the line.

"Once the center is up and running, we will employ youth to provide services to youth and community-based organizations to provide services to youth," youth center supporter Darryl Stewart said.

The park portion of the project will be ready next year, the youth center is scheduled to open in 2012.

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