The Ennis City Commission and Corsicana City Council each called a special meeting Tuesday to approve a resolution expressing opposition to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ mandate that they pay for lake improvement projects being done with stimulus funds.

The city of Waxahachie passed a similar resolution on Monday.

“The purpose of these funds is help stabilize local government; Congress has told the Corps of Engineers to spend the money (in a way that) minimizes the expense to state and local entities and the impact (that expense) has,” Ennis City Manager Steve Howerton said.

For the three cities, however, the projects have proven problematic as the Corps is seeking repayment of the funds.

“This is a contradiction because they were to subsidize local governments and not harm them,” Howerton said.

The stimulus dollars funding these projects come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project that the Corps is involved with at Lake Bardwell includes lime-stabilization of the earthen dam to prevent soil slides. The slides are regularly repaired as part of the annual dam maintenance by the Corps. Those costs are split between Waxahachie and Ennis, with the latter paying 55 percent and the former paying 45 percent.

Howerton said Ennis’ portion for regular maintenance at the lake for 2010 is $482,000.

With the stimulus fund projects, each city would be responsible for paying back its portion back within a year’s time. Ennis’ portion alone totals $1.59574 million.

The resolution adopted by the cities asks that they not have to pay the money back since the project is funded by stimulus dollars. If that request is denied, the cities have asked for an acceptable low cost and long-term payment plan. The cities also have requested that the Corps immediately cease all construction activity and expenses associated with the project.

The resolution asks that Congressman Joe Barton request a congressional inquiry in all matters pertaining to the Corps of Engineers and the stimulus – and to include these projects.

Corsicana’s improvement project is on Navarro Mills Reservoir and the city would be required to repay $3.5 million. The project includes repainting gates and installing riprap – a wall of stones used to prevent erosion on an embankment – around the shore line. The city’s annual maintenance cost for Navarro Mills Reservoir was not immediately available. 

“Our biggest opposition is that to have to repay the large cost operation and maintenance is contrary of the intent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” Corsicana City Manager Connie Standridge said, saying she doesn’t think the city should reimburse stimulus funds.

The cities will present a copy of resolution to the Trinity River Authority (the entity that works directly with the Corps of Engineers), the Corps of Engineers itself and Barton’s office.

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews. com or 469-517-1458.