LISBON - Changes in a federal grant program means Columbiana County commissioners will have less money to award for fewer community projects.
The news came to light during a public hearing held by Columbiana County commissioners on their 2014 Community Development Block Grant allocation, which is provided through the state. The hearing is to review applications from communities requesting a share of the money for their projects.
Commissioners were provided $260,000 to spend on 2014 projects, an increase of $10,000 over last year. In years past, the cities of East Liverpool and Salem received separate grant allocations, but that is no longer the case starting this year due to changes in the CDBG program.
The state has eliminated the practice of East Liverpool and Salem receiving separate grants, instead requiring their shares to come from the county's allocation. East Liverpool is guaranteed $60,000 and Salem $42,000, leaving commissioners with $158,000 to spend.
Pam Dray of the county development department said the state decided cities with populations of less than 15,000 would be rolled into the county's grant instead of continuing to receive allocations.
"You are required to give them that," Dray said. "You could actually fight the state on this."
"Well, no one wants to fight with anyone," said Commission Chairman Mike Halleck, although he intends to look into the program changes for himself to determine if they have to abide by them.
Dray said another new program change restricts to two the number of projects commissioners can fund. In past years, commissioners funded anywhere from three to six projects, depending on the allocation and the size of the funding request.
She said the state is also reserving the right to approve all projects. "If they don't like the project, they won't fund it," Dray said.
Commissioners received a total of $2.25 million in funding requests from 17 applicants despite there only being $158,000 available. Approximately $1 million in requests came from one applicant, the village of Salineville.
"Certainly, I don't see a project in here that doesn't deserve consideration, but it's hard when you don't have the money," Halleck said.
For the first time in memory, a school district was among the applicants. The Beaver Local school district applied for $300,000 in CDBG money as part of a $750,712 road-widening project.
The new kindergarten-through-12th grade complex is being built at the site of the former Oldtimers Baseball Complex on Bell School Road. School Superintendent Kent Polen said they need to add a third/turning lane on Bell School Road to accommodate the increased traffic resulting from the new school complex. He said the Ohio Department of Transportation plans to install a traffic light at the intersection with state Route 7.
Polen said the current middle school will be razed as part of the project, with a baseball field being built in its place. The current high school on Route 7 will also be razed and the site used for future planning.
The following is a list of the other applicants seeking a portion of the commissioners $158,000:
County Engineer's Office
Engineer Bert Dawson asked for $245,000 as the final piece of the funding puzzle for the $1.9 million sewage treatment plant to be constructed in Kensington.
The village is seeking a combined $1 million, $949,000 of which is to replace 11,200 feet of curbing along Main Street. Another $12,500 is sought to replace a main pump at the sewage treatment plant and $9,499 to make the fire hall handicapped accessible.
Salineville does not intend to contribute any of its own funding toward the projects, which is usually viewed as a negative by commissioners when deciding which applications to fund. Commissioners generally favor projects where the applicant is contributing something toward the cost, the more the better.
The village is seeking $158,933 to help fund a $181,433 project to install a new waterline on Cherry Fork Avenue to the county Port Authority industrial park.
The village is seeking $75,000 to cover the $300,000 cost of replacing the Summer Street bridge, which has partially collapsed. The village would use the money as match to be eligible to seek a $225,000 state grant to cover the rest of the cost.
The fire department is seeking $45,720 to cover the entire cost of purchasing firefighter gear and equipment.
Trustees are seeking $74,295 to help fund a $82,550 project to install storm sewers in the southeastern section of Negley.
The village is seeking $39,248 to cover the entire cost of replacing rectangle boxes on flood-system steal beams.
Trustees are seeking $39,000 to help pay the $78,000 cost of constructing a road equipment storage building.
The village is seeking $72,050 to help pay the $82,550 costs of replacing equipment at the sewage treatment plant.
Yellow Creek Township
Trustees are seeking $17,440 to pay the entire cost of constructing a storage building for road material.
The village is seeking $64,000 to help pay the $69,000 cost of sandblasting and repainting the metal bridge leading to the sewage treatment plant.
As for Salem, the city will receive $42,000 to help repave a portion of South Broadway. The cost is $60,588, with Salem contributing $18,588.
Meanwhile, East Liverpool will receive $60,000 to help pay the $65,317 cost of repaving West Sixth Street, from Jackson to Monroe streets.