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January 27th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Resort town's stimulus boon

Editor's Note: All week, CNN examines the stimulus and looks at one of the greatest areas of concern for Americans: the economy. Today, can a $5.5 million resort town restoration project be a good use of stimulus aid? Our Christine Romans finds out why one woman is grateful for the stimulus. And tomorrow on American Morning, we find out why a bridge that was built to make residents safe is now being called a waste of their money.

By Christine Romans and Sara Lane, CNN

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (CNN) – It's the dead of winter and Rehoboth Beach is hopping...with construction workers rebuilding a mile of old boardwalk with $5.5 million stimulus dollars.

City Commissioner Stan Mills shows off the project to CNN, thrilled that the boardwalk will be finished for the start of the season. It's frigid here now, but more than a dozen workers are dumping sand, laying boards, and maneuvering heavy equipment. All thanks to the massive federal stimulus.

"There would be no workers here. There would be no workers potentially getting paychecks," Mills says, saying that parts of the boardwalk were crumbling and more than 50 years old.

But stimulus for a resort town? The project landed on a Republican list of wasteful stimulus projects. Even a local Democrat, Angel Clark,staged a small protest against it. She's worried America is spending money it doesn't have on projects it doesn't need.

"Five and a half million dollars is an extremely large amount of money," Clark says. "It doesn't make sense to me the concept of using money to build this boardwalk when it was already functional."

But don't tell Stan Mills it's waste and not stimulus. Anything that attracts tourists, he says, helps the restaurants, shops and hotels, who in turn hire workers.

"Certainly to let something deteriorate would be a turnoff, and at worst case, it would be a safety issue," Mills says.

The famous boardwalk is not Rehoboth's only stimulus project. Two miles away, in a low-income neighborhood where people make less than $20,000 a year, is a much smaller stimulus project for $130,000.

A small band of neighborhood residents are learning basic weatherization skills, and using them to repair and insulate local homes.

In the shadow of the big multi-million-dollar boardwalk project, do these residents feel slighted by their much smaller grant?

"We've got to have the boardwalk, because that keeps me working," says Eleanor Whaley. Like most of her neighbors, Whaley works in the beach resort town and depends on tourists. Whaley says she's glad Rehoboth Beach got the huge grant, but she and her neighbors could have used a lot more stimulus money too.

Whaley is vice president of the West Rehoboth Community Land Trust, which is managing the weatherization project. The group hopes to eventually buy land in the community to build new affordable homes.

With $5.5 million, says Richard Legatski, the group's president, "We could make this whole community into a very nice, desirable place to live. We could provide housing that they could afford, that would be much nicer."

Making do with the $130,000 grant, the group is training eight people to weatherize homes, hoping it will lead to better jobs as the country invests more in home energy efficiency.

Besides training with the program, Eleanor has also seen a direct benefit in her house. Two bathrooms in her small trailer were ruined by leaking water that destroyed insulation and left hot air streaming out in winter. Her heating bill was $230 a month. The weatherizing program paid to repair the bathrooms and Whaley has seen her heating bill drop by $40. The program will also replace her windows, and Whaley expects to see an even greater energy savings.

"I think it's the best thing that could have happened, not only for me, but for other residents that are living here in the community," Whaley says of the stimulus money.

It's hard to gauge the economic benefits of either stimulus program, but the West Rehoboth project has created one job for Kevin McKinney, the project manager, and the boardwalk rebuild has created the equivalent of about 31 full-time jobs, according to the Delaware Department of Transportation.

Eleanor Whaley and Stan Mills say their projects will also have long-term benefits, creating future jobs and bringing in more tourists to keep the area growing.

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Complete coverage: The Stimulus Project

Filed under: Economy • The Stimulus Project
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Delaware Beach LOCAL

    I have to say the spending on the boardwalk is total crap. Really, the beach is so overcrowded with tourists in the summer that the locals cant enjoy it, so clearly this is being done for the tourists only. Heres a thought how about using it instead to hire more police to watch the roads since the onslought of tourists brings an onslought of motor vehicle accidents. Why are there never police on Route 1? Because they are too busy babysitting tourists kids at the beach. We have roads here that could be repaved with potholes that should have their own zipcodes yet the best they can do with this money is grant it to redo the boardwalk because it was damaged when heavy trucks were driven across it? DUH the city brings in plenty of tax revenue from a town filled with nothing but million dollar homes. Rediculous waste- go Delaware just another reason why we refer to it as LOWER SLOWER.

    March 18, 2010 at 9:54 am |
  2. Revolutionalist

    As we continue to work our way thorugh the worst economic crisis since the great depression...the cnn am journalists and anchors – 5am – 8am should focus on sharing stories that show the sucess of the stimulus funds in different towns across the country. I have seen several peices of just what is not working or the stimulus money has not reached certain will take time. It will benefit the masses to see success stories and lift up there spirits during these hard times....

    January 28, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  3. Bill Foster

    Millions lose there extended unemployment in March 1. March 5 2010 Millions become homeless in America

    January 28, 2010 at 5:59 am |
  4. Kris

    Are the WINDOWS at least made in this country??? People spending money at restaurants isn't really stimulus if there aren't any people WITH money. These are just more fake government jobs... nothing that makes this country more attractive to do business in. There's nothing happening here that makes this country better over the long haul. Pathetic.

    January 27, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  5. docb


    The States decide which projects are shovel ready and must match some part of the funds. Just like any grant writing–it is dependent on the skill of the writer, the value of the project to the community and the contacts on the State govrning Board!

    Some reporting is a bit canted to the blaming of the Administration -Just tell the truth when reporting and it will be a service to the people watching instead of a political statement!

    January 27, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  6. Rehoboth Weekender

    What the article also failed to mention was that the boardwalk was under construction when a coastal storm came along in early fall. The high winds and tide washed away much of the shoreline underneath the boardwalk contributing to the need to replace the boardwalk. This small resort town attracts many from neighboring Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and Virginia nine to ten months out of the year. If you ask me...there is nothing more stimulating then a walk along the beach. Those finding this to be a waste of stimulus funds should try it.

    January 27, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  7. Paul Johnson

    Dear Christine,

    5.5 million to create 31 jobs? My second grad math tells me that's only $177,419.30 for each of those 31 temporary jobs. God help us to throw out every politician who voted for the stimulus.

    January 27, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
  8. Some Guy

    What the article fails to mention is that a lot of the locals did not see a need to replace the entire boardwalk as stated in stories from the local newspaper.

    The main reason a restoration was needed was so the city could drive trash trucks up and down the boardwalk to collect waste.

    January 27, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
  9. D.Williams

    Thanks for positive feedback! It seems as if whatever good the Obama Administration attempts to do it will also be evil spoken of by people who are full of poison.

    January 27, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  10. nancy

    Good for them!! Puts folks to work and money into the economy there.

    January 27, 2010 at 9:49 am |
  11. Muldoon in Ohio

    My guess is there's a certain congressman or senator from Delaware or Maryland who likes to spend weekends at this little resort beach. Why else would such funds be allocated for a boardwalk, Mr. Biden?

    January 27, 2010 at 9:41 am |