By Nancy Allen
A $1.4 million Ohio Department of Transportation grant that would have helped fund a new mile-long boardwalk along Grand Lake St. Marys in Celina has been denied.
But Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue said the city should still be able to proceed with the project using Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district funds and $250,000 in state line item money the city received last year for the project.
"We will not get down about this. It is in a TIF district, and we will keep going," LaRue said cheerfully Monday during a Lake Development Corporation meeting at Wright State University-Lake Campus.
In a TIF district, increased property tax revenue generated from improvements made in the district are set aside to pay for the development of infrastructure in that same area. That TIF district includes the new Westlake Village, the Lakeshore Drive area and downtown.
The city has proposed building a 12-foot-wide, mile-long boardwalk along the lake's shore from West Bank park to the lighthouse on South Main Street. Kent Bryan, community development consultant for Celina, said ODOT disbursed the roughly $12 million in enhancement funds available statewide to projects that were more "transportation-oriented." Those projects awarded ranged from $300,000 to $600,000.
"They broke the state down into four quadrants and allocated about $3 million to each quadrant," Bryan said this morning. "Our project alone would have taken up a good deal of the $3 million in the northwest quadrant."
Bryan said he does not believe the city is in any jeopardy of losing the $250,000 in state line item funds already awarded. The deadline to begin using the funds has been extended from June to December, LaRue said. The line item money was leveraged by state Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina.
"We will talk to Faber to make sure the funds can be carried over to next year," Bryan said. "I don't believe it will be a problem to extend it. They just want to know if it is still the city's intention to build it."
The city estimated it could do the boardwalk and about 12 feet of green space for between $1.5 and $1.7 million, he said.
"We did not need this particular ODOT grant to do phase one of the boardwalk," Bryan said. "This was an attempt to get additional grant dollars to help pay for the project. Then we could have used our TIF dollars for other projects or to expand on the boardwalk project."
Bryan said the city intends to submit another grant request to ODOT for $1.5 million in small cities grant funds for the boardwalk project. This is the same type of funds the city received this year to pay for reconstructing Ash and Touvelle streets and Grand Lake Road.
He said the city also plans next year to submit another request for ODOT enhancement funds to extend the Coldwater-Celina bicycle path from Schunck Road north along the old Mersman Furniture Co. property to Touvelle Street and then to Westview Park.