County picks CDBG winners

LISBON – Columbiana County commissioners decided Wednesday to use their 2014 federal CDBG allocation to help fund projects in Salem, Madison Township, Salineville and Kensington.

To do this, commissioners will take $100,000 from the county’s share of state casino tax revenue and add it to the $260,000 in CDBG money they received for 2014. This will enable commissioners to fully fund the request of county Engineer Bert Dawson, who was seeking $245,000 for the Kensington sewer project, and three other projects.

The county is being required by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to build a sewage plant to serve the unincorporated crossroads community of Kensington. Dawson, who doubles as county sanitary engineer, applied for $245,000 in CDBG money as the final piece of funding needed to build the $1.9 million plant.

Since the $245,000 is grant money instead of a loan, it will lower the projected user fee for the 90 affected households by $10 per month, to an estimated $30-$40. Dawson cautioned that those figures are only estimates and actual user costs will be determined once they award construction contracts.

Commissioner Tim Weigle pointed out the Kensington plant is being built with a large enough treatment capacity so it can be expanded to take in sewage from the nearby village of Hanoverton, which is also under an OEPA mandate.

“Hopefully, Hanoverton will be able to come on board,” he said.

Following is a list of the other CDBG recipients and amounts:

– Salem, $63,500, which will be used to resurface city streets. The city is contributing $18,000 toward the project.

– Madison Township, $39,000, which will be used to help pay the $78,000 cost of constructing a new road equipment storage building. Commission Chairman Mike Halleck said they funded this project because the township was contributing 50 percent of its own money, and commissioners usually favor projects where the applicant is making a significant commitment.

– Salineville, $12,500, to replace a main pump at the village sewage plant. Although Salineville is not contributing anything, Halleck said they decided to fund the project because of its importance to the plant’s operation.

Absent from the list was East Liverpool, which along with Salem has received its own CDBG grants separate from the county’s, but the state eliminated the practice. Starting this year, the two cities are now automatically entitled to a share of the county’s CDBG, although how much was left up to the discretion of commissioners. Also, commissioners could seek a waiver from the requirement if funding East Liverpool and Salem’s applications would “pose a hardship.”

Given the limited amount of CDBG funding and the number of applicants (a total of 17 total, seeking $2.2 million) Halleck said they asked East Liverpool and Salem to consider taking turns accepting CDBG money rather than both going after money this year.

Commissioners decided Salem’s 2014 request would be funded, with East Liverpool to receive CDBG money in 2015. Salem Mayor John Berlin sent commissioners a letter agreeing to the arrangement, while Weigle said Pam Dray of the county development department spoke with an East Liverpool official who also agreed.

Weigle said this approach makes more sense because this way East Liverpool and Salem would receive a larger allocation to help with a particular project than if commissioners only gave them smaller amounts annually.

“This way there is enough for them if they want to do a big project,” he said.

Another new program change restricts the number of projects commissioners can fund to two. Weigle said they intend to seek a waiver from the Ohio Development Services Agency to allow them to do four projects.

Among the larger funding requests was $300,000 from the Beaver Local school district to help pay for a $750,712 road-widening project for its new school complex. Since construction of the new school has yet to begin, and the complex is still two years away from opening, Commissioner Jim Hoppel said they have another year to help Beaver Local.

Commissioners also found another way to help East Palestine, which had applied for $75,000 in CDBG money to help cover the $300,000 cost of replacing the Summer Street bridge, which has partially collapsed. The state has another CDBG program that provides funding specifically for “critical infrastructure” projects, and commissioners voted to work with East Palestine in seeking a grant for that purpose.

Commissioners also agreed to take $15,000 from the county revolving loan fund and use it as matching funds on behalf of East Palestine to qualify for the critical infrastructure grant. Hoppel indicated they would work with Beaver Local in seeking a critical infrastructure grant for its road project.