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Friday, April 27th, 2007

Canal restoration project costs keep on piling up

By Margie Wuebker
NEW BREMEN - Preliminary plans for a lockkeeper's house on the west side of Lock One have made the first cut in a state grant application process, but some local officials feel too much has been spent on Miami-Erie Canal improvements thus far.
"We've already spent a lot," Mayor Jeff Pape told village councilors Tuesday. "And my concern is that this is following the same course."
The original canal project involving restoration of Lock One began with $280,000 in grant dollars and $70,000 in matching money from the New Bremen Historic Association. The village so far has contributed $776,000 to the project, which paid for restoration work, removal of silt and bank repairs south of Plum Street. Bids are still out for landscaping.
The price tag for the entire restoration project, including grants, has surpassed $1 million.
The proposed construction of a three-story lockkeeper's house also has gone up, from an original estimate of $450,000 to the latest price tag set at $600,000.
The historic association pledged to pay $90,000 or 20 percent of the house project with the remainder coming from a transportation enhancement grant administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). Having made the first cut, the final grant application must be filed with ODOT by May 1.
However, association member Larry Dicke explained the project cost has increased to $600,000 due to the needed addition of outside stairways and an elevator. He added the historic association will come up with the 20 percent match, or a total of $120,000.
The lockkeeper's house would become the Miami-Erie Canal Visitors Center with canal memorabilia, offices, a large meeting area and restrooms. The Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce and the Miami-Erie Canal Corridor Association also would be housed at the site.  
After considerable discussion, councilors authorized Village Administrator Wayne York to file the grant application by the May 1 deadline. Craig Meyer cast the lone dissenting vote.
In other business, councilors:
• Accepted the resignation of Diane Gast as clerk-treasurer and then approved her appointment to the newly created position of village fiscal officer effective immediately.
• Passed a resolution of necessity regarding the need to install or replace sidewalks on Ash Street between Main and Franklin streets as well as Bear Drive between Monroe Street and Fox Drive.
• Reminded residents spring cleanup will be held 8-11 a.m. May 5 at the Lock One parking lot behind the local library. Those participating should bring a recent utility bill or other identification to prove residency.
• Learned the Southwestern Auglaize County Relay for Life will take place June 8 and 9 on the New Bremen High School grounds with the Northern Auglaize County event scheduled May 18 and 19 in Wapakoneta.
• Authorized Pape to attend the Ohio Mayors Association meeting June 14 and 15 in Westlake.
• Learned fines, fees and forfeitures for the month totaled $1,023.37.  
• Met in executive session to discuss litigation. No action was taken after the closed-door session.
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