...renegotiating Dept. of the Interior contracts. Competitive grants geared toward business, such as broadband-technology funding, initially disfavored non-profit organizations.
“As far as construction, it was really the timing of the funding itself, negotiating and just having agencies make sure tribes were included,” Desiderio says. Expediency was a prime consideration. “The term ‘shovel-ready’ took on an important meaning in tribal communities,” he says.
ARRA emphasis on construction readiness gave a competitive advantage to tribes with master plans and projects on the boards.
“You shouldn’t just pull a project out of a hat, so you need to have some footing and understanding of what your needs are,” says Shelley Zavlek, president of Justice Solutions, a New Jersey-based criminal-justice planning consultant with more than 45 tribal clients.
Tribes fund planning through various avenues, such as the Dept. of Justice’s Correctional Facilities on Tribal Lands program. Tribes poised to take advantage of ARRA funding already had developed plans through alternative funding, Zavlek says. Most tribal projects funded by ARRA were shelved due to lack of funds, not insufficient planning.
In Rosebud, S.D., an airport planned since 1999 is more than 50% complete. Independent-living homes for Choctaw elders in Oklahoma were 12 years coming. On the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington, ARRA funds are improving roads neglected for 30 years.
Norton Sound Regional Hospital, a 150,000-sq-ft, $91-million project located in Nome, Alaska, replaces a 61-year-old facility. It’s one of two ARRA construction projects through Indian Health Service (IHS); the other is a $111-million Cheyenne River Health Center in Eagle Butte, S.D., that will triple the size of the existing hospital, which was built in 1960.
“I don’t know whether we could have completed those two projects with the funds that we had,” says Randall Gardner, acting deputy director for the Office of Environmental Health and Engineering and IHS ARRA coordinator.
The projects were selected from an agency priority list based on readiness, including operations funding, he says.
The Nome project will create 150 jobs and aims to give 40% of the jobs to local tribe members, according to Gary Donnelly, project administrator for Neeser Construction Inc., Anchorage, which is building the project through a joint venture with Inuit Services, a subsidiary of Bering Straits Native Corp.
Facility staffing will provide work long after construction, Gardner adds, as will ARRA-funded IHS projects in maintenance and sanitation.
Data on ARRA economic impacts is accumulating as projects progress.
NCAI is measuring effectiveness and already analyzing lessons learned, Desiderio says.