By Sean Rice
Celina City Council applied for more than $1.3 million in government grants for various walkway projects Monday night, despite council members expressing reservations on whether the city can afford the matching money requirements.
Council members approved submitting two applications to the Transportation Enhancement program, which is a pool of money from U.S. Congress, administered by Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT)
One of the projects is to replace sidewalks, gutters, curbs, lighting and updating underground utilities on Main Street, from Lake Shore Drive to Livingston Street. The total cost is estimated at $540,000, with Celina being responsible for a $108,000 match.
Kent Bryan, contracted development consultant, explained he is trying to coordinate the enhancement grant for sidewalks and lighting on Main Street with ODOT's repaving of U.S. 127. The city can use local Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) or Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to help pay the matching requirement. Also a downtown revitalization grant application for $300,000 is being prepared that could be used for matching funds, he said.
Council members approved applying for the sidewalk grant, then approved a second application asking for money to extend the Celina-Coldwater bike path north through Celina. The $518,000 project entails extending the current bike path from its end point at Schunck Road north along an abandoned railroad line owned by the city to Touvelle Street. A trail spur is planned at Washington Street to bring a path east to the lakefront.
Celina would be responsible for $103,000 if the application is approved. Bryan said OPWC or CDBG money could be used for the match, or another grant.
"And the other concept here is one will be the match to the other," Bryan said of submitting several overlapping grants.
Council member Angie King said she has reservations giving her "stamp of approval" with so much unknown about the required matching funds.
Bryan said the city can reject any grant received.
"Is it going to get to the point where we are going to have to make cuts to pay for grants?" King asked.
"Each time we vote for one of these, there's that little thing in the back of our minds, 'what did we just commit to,' " member Chris Mohler said.
"I'm losing track of what our financial commitment is," member Denny Smith said.
"If we don't go after grants, and there is zero in the general fund, then nothing's going to get done," Bryan responded. "These are things we need to do."
"If we don't apply, we get nothing," council President Bill Sell said.
After members passed applying for the sidewalk grant, bike path grant and two other trail grants all as emergency ordinances, member June Scott asked for more time in the future to consider the applications.
The other two trail grants applied for Monday are for the West Bank Road walkway and for a nature trail in the wooded area south of Westview Park.
The West Bank Road walkway grant was titled "water quality project" by Bryan in the grant because the planned concrete boardwalk would provide bank stabilization and filter protection from road materials. The grant from the OPWC Clean Ohio Fund seeks $250,000 for the walkway and grass filter strips, with a 20 percent match by the city.
Celina has a $250,000 line item set aside from the Ohio Legislature as "seed money" to make the project happen. And, a newly created tax increment financing district is earmarked to help pay for the walkway, last estimated at $1.5 million.
City officials hope to convert a recently donated section of woods near Westview Park into a nature trail using state grants.
Council members approved applying for $73,000 from the Clean Ohio Fund to use with other grants to build a nature path in the woods south of Westview Park. If approved, Celina could use man-hours in the parks department as a match, Bryan said.