Bridging the gap 

With the repair of Missoula's Scott Street Bridge complete, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, David Brothers, a member of the Carpenters Union Local #28, finds himself out of work.

Brothers, 52, was one of about 20 carpenters and laborers who had a hand in repairing the Scott Street Bridge's deck, a three-month, $1.8 million stimulus project awarded to Great Falls-based Sletten Construction Co. Before that, Brothers helped replace the Old Steel Bridge in Kalispell, a $8.7 million stimulus project.

"It was pretty crucial," Brothers says, "because things were starting to slow down, and that Old Steel Bridge up in the Flathead was coming to a close, so it was nice to be able to go to another job and it was nice that it was a stimulus job. I thought that was pretty outstanding."

But with the projects done and no more work available, he's passing the time with his mother in Kalispell, replacing a faucet and doing other odd jobs.

"I'm supposed to start a job up in Sandpoint and they've already started on it," Brothers says, "but right now they don't need my particular trade, so..."

According to recovery.gov, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has brought Montana some $877 million in stimulus contracts, grants and loans, of which about $136 million has been received so far, creating or saving more than 6,000 jobs. For laborers like Brothers, it's one of the few things keeping them from working full-time at their mothers' houses.

Union representative Dennis Daneke keeps a weekly list of all the union members around western Montana looking for work. Due to the recession, that list, Daneke says, includes about twice as many names as it used to. The stimulus projects haven't put all of them to work, but, he says, "It's not getting worse."

"I wish it were faster," Daneke says, "but slow and steady wins the race, too."

Brothers remains optimistic. "Once these stimulus projects start kicking in I think things will start picking back up, and I think we're starting to see the tip of that, the front end of it," he says.

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