There are a lot of restrictions on projects that qualify for stimulus money. Road repair projects need to cost at least $500,000 in order to qualify, but Atherton's share of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is only $200,000 to $300,000, according to Public Works Director Duncan Jones.
Woodside's share is an estimated $150,000 to $200,000, according to that town's staff.
So the Atherton City Council, at its Feb. 18 meeting, agreed to essentially buy Woodside's stimulus dollars, thus ensuring that neither town misses out on the federal government's largesse.
Without the collaborative effort, both towns would forfeit the stimulus money, officials said.
Atherton's plan to reconstruct part of Atherton Avenue — as much of it as $500,000 will cover — would be paid for by stimulus dollars, but the town is willing to dip into its coffers and exchange cash for Woodside's share of the restricted stimulus money.
The Woodside Town Council has the plan on the agenda of its Feb. 24 meeting. If approved, the town will use the money from Atherton for other road projects, according to Woodside staff reports.
Atherton can cover the expense of buying out Woodside with savings from previous Atherton road projects that ran well below budget, Mr. Jones said.
"Woodside didn't have a project that qualified, and they don't have experience with federal projects," Mr. Jones told the council.
Atherton, on the other hand, has its qualifying project ready to go.
Other small towns in the county are teaming up and doing the same kind of horse-trading, with the encouragement of the City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG), according to Mr. Jones. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is expected this week to calculate the exact share of stimulus money coming to each town.
Atherton Avenue has a number of base failures that need repairing, Mr. Jones said.
"We've been chasing them with patches for years," he told the council. "I drive it in a jeep, and it's not smooth. Basically, it's patches from utilities (projects) holding hands."
Mr. Jones said he hopes to get the project out to bid while contractors are still anxious for work. Once more of the stimulus-funded projects get going, prices will certainly go up, he said.