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Columbia County Observer

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FDOT's "Roo" Petithomme, Spending Federal Dollars to Improve North FL's Quality of Life


Gainesville road widening and restoration makes folks feel good and improves infrastructure. This is a LAP project which would have made Lady Bird smile.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – At almost $10 billion, the Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT), has the third largest budget appropriation in the state. Funding road and associated projects in financially strapped rural communities has always been problematic. In December of 2014, FDOT's Roosevelt Petithomme appeared before the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council to enlighten it on Federal Funding for Hometown Projects. Last night, Mr. Petithomme made a return engagement. His mission: update the council and inspire those rural communities that have not been certified as partners by the FDOT to take action.

In the Beginning


Roosevelt Petithomme explains the availability of Fed funds for hometown projects.          (file photo)

Mr. Petithomme began his presentation by telling the Council, "Our region has done a complete about face... Over the last 2 years we've really struggled with the Local Agency Program (LAP)."

He continued, "The Local Agency Program is the opportunity for local governments to build federally funded projects [projects include trails, sidewalks, restorations, bike paths, etc.]... One of our firm beliefs is there is no one better to deliver a project than the people of that community. You know the politics; you know the issues; you can tackle those issues much more efficiently and be more cost effective than the DOT will. The LAP program gives you control."

The DOT also provides a management fee for the communities that are LAP certified.

Now


Columbia County, N. Central Florida's Gateway to Florida, still is not a partner.

Since Mr. Petithomme's last visit to the Planning Council nine new communities, the DOT calls them "partners," have joined the program.

Mr. Petithomme explained the value of certification, "These are now entities that are primed to receive federal funds and deliver those federal funds with their own staff, with the assistance from our consultants."

He continued, "For the entities that are not represented here, you have the same opportunity and are able to be as successful as those entities are. As you solicit projects for transportation enhancement or safety programs, become LAP certified."

Future is Holistic: "We are trying to make it easier"


Landscaping and sidewalk renovations add to the quality of life in this LAP Jacksonville West Central Civic Core upgrade.

The Department of Transportation has various programs for which rural counties and municipalities can apply. They go by various acronyms, (SCRAP, SCOP, etc.). In the past, communities would first need to figure out which program suited their project; then apply. In many instances, this required a large time investment and multiple applications.

Mr. Petithomme told the council members, "So you are not submitting multiple applications we are looking at projects in a holistic fashion. One of the terms we are using now is the term "whole roads." In the future, you will be able to submit a single application that will take into account all the project needs. The department will look at the project request and determine which program is best suited to fund the project as opposed to you having to figure out which DOT program it is. We are trying to make it easier and more efficient."

Questions


A bike path like this one in Port St. Joe could be built between High Springs and Fort White using LAP funding.

In response to a question from Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Budd for a further explanation regarding the program, Mr. Petithomme explained, "The Local Agency Program (LAP) is an opportunity whereby local governments are allowed to develop federally funded projects. With the LAP program the federal government adds a variety of strings... We are providing agency consultants to assist our agency partners [counties, cities, etc.) to assist them."

Mr. Budd asked about the turnaround time from application submittal to approval.

Another member of the DOT team explained that it is "almost a year."

Mr. Petithomme said that the City of Gainesville is very active.

Mr. Budd, said to a chuckle from the audience, "We try to suck as much money as we can from the federal government."

Your reporter asked, "How long does it take for a community to get certified?

Mr. Petithomme answered, "We have certified communities in as short as one month."

Your reporter followed up, "Would you recommend that they get certified first and then apply for the project?"

Mr. Petithomme responded, "I would recommend that you apply for a project and once you're notified that the project is going to be funded, then seek certification."

Using as an example a long-needed bike path connecting the City of High Springs in Alachua County with Fort White, in Columbia County, your reporter asked, "Can municipalities combine projects?"

Mr. Petithomme answered, "Yes. You can partner with neighboring cities and counties to get these projects delivered."

Epilogue

After the meeting, Mr. Petithomme told the Observer, "Our program is growing. We have more partners than we have ever had before. The District 2 Local Program Team encourages those that have not yet been certified to join us as a partner in improvement of the infrastructure of rural North Florida."

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