The early bird gets the money. That's what Stanislaus County and Modesto leaders are hoping as they make their annual pilgrimage to the nation's capital, where they'll ask lawmakers to steer federal dollars to local projects.
The group usually heads to Washington, D.C., in March. This year's trip starts Monday so funding requests can get on lawmakers' radar screens as early as possible, said Bill Bassitt, chief executive officer of Stanislaus County Economic Development and Workforce Alliance.
The 17- member group, which includes Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour, Stanislaus County Chief Executive Rick Robinson, Modesto Police Chief Mike Harden and county Sheriff Adam Christianson, will plead their case to Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Reps. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and George Radanovich, R-Mariposa.
The face-to-face meetings bear fruit, Bassitt said. Last year's effort garnered almost $1 million in federal funding for local projects, Bassitt said.
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The group's sixth trip to D.C. will highlight projects with regional impact. Lawmakers prefer to back those efforts instead of requests that benefit a single city, Bassitt said.
"They like it because it covers a broader region of their territories," Bassitt said. "And it doesn't pit one city against another and force them to play God in determining who gets the funding for some projects and who doesn't."
Here's what's on the wish list they'll take to Capitol Hill this year:
$6 million to build a unified radio system for public safety agencies along Highway 99. The system will make it easier for emergency responders in Modesto, Turlock and Ceres to communicate with each other and with agencies in the Bay Area and Sacramento area.
$1.8 million for the Tuolumne River Regional Park, which eventually will span 500 acres along a seven-mile stretch of the Tuolumne River corridor.
$1.5 million for a flood-control project on Orestimba Creek on the west side of Stanislaus County.
$300,000 for a Stanislaus County Family Justice Center. The center will be a one-stop center to help victims of family violence and abuse.
City and county leaders will introduce federal lawmakers to a plan to sell waste water from Modesto, Ceres and Turlock to drought-stricken farmers on the county's west side. The cities would pipe their treated waste water to the Del Puerto Water District along Interstate 5.
It's too early to ask for funding for the project, but it's a good idea to show it off to D.C. lawmakers to lay the groundwork for future support, Bassitt said.
"That one is an absolute win-win-win situation and really goes into the teeth of one of the most critical issues we have in the valley, and that's water," Bassitt said. "That one we think has a lot traction."