By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published Nov. 23, 2011

The city of Charlotte recently applied for a federally funded transportation enhancement grant to renovate the old jailer’s house and jail on the courthouse square.

Charlotte and the city’s proposal to renovate it’s old jailer’s house and jail lie at the heart of the national debate over debt reduction. Even though the city applied for the enhancement grant through the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the grant is actually federally funded through a program targeted for elimination.

John Hudak, a Vanderbilt University political science Ph.D. candidate, explained the enhancement grant Charlotte applied for actually derives from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

USDOT allocates the funds to all 50 state departments of transportation through a formula designed by Congress. So Tennessee’s enhancement grants are dispersed through the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

In 2011, TDOT awarded nearly $13 million in enhancement grants and $259.5 million from 1991−2010.

Hudak, whose research generally focuses on federal grants, Congress and the presidency, noted the controversy over federally funded enhancement grants arises from perceived “silly” projects that waste federal dollars during a national budget debate.

“The controversy has actually emerged from projects that, while they fall under the types of projects that can be funded in this grant, they actually haven’t taken federal dollars for the most part, they’ve been done mostly by state−only funds,” said Hudak. “What ends up happening is that the individuals looking to find, what on the surface appear to be silly or unnecessary programs, are finding weird projects.”

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