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05-27-05 County faces tough choices

By Timothy Cox

  Mercer County Commissioners have to find a way to divvy about $75,000 in grant money among 14 local jurisdictions seeking assistance for local infrastructure projects.

  Only about five projects will be funded.
  "There will be more losers than winners," Commissioner Jerry Laffin said.
  Commissioners are faced with a tough task to decide which town or township gets a grant and which do not. Susan McKanna of the county community development office said all 14 proposed projects are worthwhile and likely meet program criteria.
  The county annually hands out about $100,000 through the Community Development Block Grant program. The Ohio Department of Development money is funneled through county coffers to be awarded to local communities.  A public hearing is set for June 23 when officials from each community will have the chance to make their case to commissioners. Thursday's meeting between commissioners and McKanna was only a preliminary review of the list of projects. The requests for CDBG funding from the local communities tops $400,000, or more than four times more money than commissioners have available to dole out.
  The annual program has about $100,000 available, but commissioners already have given preliminary approval for $25,000 to Montezuma for that community to use as a match with a CDBG distress grant the town is seeking. If Montezuma does not get the distress grant, the $25,000 would be available for other CDBG projects.
  CDBG projects must benefit county residents living in an area determined by income surveys to be low- to moderate-income.
  Union Township has two applications filed with commissioners. Trustees seek $30,000 in CDBG funding to pair with $370,000 in township funding, most of it from a new property tax levy, to help pay for a new firehouse. The township also asked for $40,000 to help pay for a $100,000 bridge replacement on Evans Road near the Van Wert County line.
  In that same part of the county, the village of Mendon applied for $33,000 to pay for needed aeration upgrades at the sewer plant.
  Jefferson Township seeks $20,000 for street improvements in the Lakeland Boulevard area, Center Township asked for $40,000 for a bridge replacement on Hasis Road, Dublin Township wants $35,000 for a bridge project on Rivertrail Road, Gibson Township seeks $25,000 to widen Fox Road, Coldwater applied for $15,625 for improvements to Sixth Street, Rockford seeks $35,000 for a water line project, Chickasaw wants $12,000 for a Main Street project, Burkettsville applied for $18,000 to improve Washington Street, St. Henry asked for $50,000 for a water and sewer line upgrade and Fort Recovery seeks $25,000 for a flood mitigation project at Ambassador Park.
  Of all the political entities seeking money, Dublin Township, Fort Recovery, Burkettsville and St. Henry have not received any CDBG funding through the commissioners during the past five years.
  County records show Franklin Township has been the biggest beneficiary of the program in the past five years with $80,000 in grants. County officials have kept $75,000 of the money in recent years to do countywide projects. Marion Township has received $67,200 in grants during that same span.
  None of those three entities are seeking funding this year.


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