Only One of 20 North Carolina Communities Receive Water
Associated Press Newswires
Copyright 2002. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
Tuesday, August 6, 2002
Edwards' hometown listed as Senate funding priority
By The Associated Press
Close to 20 North Carolina communities appealed to the
government this year for help in upgrading their aging water and sewer
systems, but only one made it onto a Senate panel's list of funding
Robbins, a tiny town of 1,200 people where U.S. Sen.
grew up, is now in line to receive $500,000 for improvements to its
Edwards' office says that the North Carolina Democrat
more or less for his boyhood home in Moore County than for any other
locality that sought help. But questions of favoritism have ben raised
from some officials whose pleas were not answered this time.
"It's gaudy," said Morganton Mayor Mel Cohen, a Democrat
is eight times as large as Robbins and has also been seeking aid. "As
mayor, I certainly wouldn't pave my street if there are other streets
that may need to be paved first. It just doesn't look good."
The water and sewer projects were tacked onto one of 13
spending bills moving through Congress this year. All told, more than
150 such projects - at a cost of $140 million to taxpayers - were
"earmarked" by senators with no public debate.
Members of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee
decisions about which projects get added after getting input from
Neither Edwards nor U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, a North
Republican, sit on the committee. But this year, both pushed for more
than a dozen projects.
Helms' office made overtures on behalf of 17 North
communities - none of which were included.
Mike Briggs, a spokesman for Edwards, said the senator
to the committee for every North Carolina town or city that made such a
"I'm sure the senator's involvement stopped with signing
letters," Briggs said.
However projects are selected, "this is not a process
merit," said Daniel Williams of the Center Against Government Waste, a
watchdog group that opposes lawmakers' practice of earmarking favored
Committee members tend to steer a disproportionate
number of projects
to their own states and those of colleagues up for re-election, Williams
Edwards has gained clout in the process recently,
because of his frequent mentions as a 2004 presidential contender.
Edwards' letters on behalf of Robbins sought nearly $1.2
a long list of upgrades.
"Taken together, the water infrastructure improvements
strengthen the town's ability to attract investment, promote economic
development and provide high-quality services to its citizens," Edwards
If the committee's recommendation of $500,000 for
Robbins is approved
by the full Senate, the town will still need approval from the U.S.
House, which is going through a similar process.
Edwards' staff released other letters Monday written on
communities including Morganton, Gastonia, Albemarle, Granite Falls,
Wilkesboro, Highlands, Henderson and Monroe - Helms' hometown.
The letter regarding Morganton asks for $500,000 and
notes that the
city invested more than $17 million in water and wastewater improvements
in 1995 to meet the needs of textile plants and other industries there.
"Regrettably, since that time six major employers have
in Morganton," the letter goes on to say. "Funding is needed to assist
the city in meeting its debt and operational payments on the new