Money well spent?

September 14, 2009 According to the White House, the stimulus has created or saved one million jobs so far. But ABC7 has found that spending big money doesn't necessarily put many people to work.

Lieutenant Jeremy Theis has a big job on his hands.

"Our intention is for someone to walk in and say wow this room looks great, I wouldn't know if it wasn't brand new," said Lt. Theis.

Theis is in charge of planning the $3.5 million dollar renovation of Admiral Boorda Hall, a twelve year old barracks at the naval station Great Lakes in North Chicago. Federal stimulus money is paying for new carpet, refurbished bathrooms and other repairs.

"This is their home, so we want it to be as homey as possible," said Theis.

Theis says rather than hiring outside workers the station chose to use contractors who were already employed by the base as maintenance workers to complete the multi-million dollar renovation.

Because of the increase in work around the base they plan to temporarily hire six painters. That's only one new hire for every $583,000 spent on the project.

"We're footing the bill for a lot of projects that probably have a very limited economic value," said Prof. Steve Davis, University of Chicago Booth School.

Prof. Davis says the stimulus wasn't designed to have the biggest impact on the economy.

"I think it's extremely difficult to ramp up federal government spending quickly without wasting much of it," said Davis. "So I'm not very hopeful that the money will be spent as wisely as it could have been."

"It's hard to evaluate individual projects to see that it's the right way to spend money," said Brian Imus, Illinois Public Interest Research Group.

Imus is pushing for improvements to federal and state tracking Web sites. Right now, the federal site lists stimulus projects by state and contract recipient. Imus thinks that for each project the site should clearly show how many jobs are supposed to be created so progress and a project's worthiness can be monitored.

"When you look at one project, $3.5 million to renovate barracks, it's hard look at that and know whether that's the best way to spend money when you can't compare that to other projects that are also shovel ready and may be able to generate more jobs," said Imus.

Lieutenant Theis says the renovation which was planned before congress passed the stimulus package will help to rebuild the economy and improve the sailors' quality of life.

"Every person that works on this base is from the local community, it's the American act, and it's for America," said Lt. Theis. "It will meet all the intents of the ARRA goal."

After recently being rated the worst state in the country for the transparency of stimulus spending, the state of Illinois launched a new stimulus tracking site. While it doesn't list funding levels for many individual projects, the site does include a wish list of how the state would like to spend stimulus money.

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