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The Madison Township trustees are looking at using the township’s allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for paving roads instead of storm water projects in order to stretch the dollars.
The three member board discussed the change during a work session at a special meeting Wednesday night after fiscal officer Leanna Rhodes reported on a webinar she attended the previous week on ARPA regulations and restrictions.
Rhodes told the board that the most recent guidelines that went into effect April 1 say that ARPA funds can be used to help recover expenses in response to COVID-19 or its negative economic impacts to households, small businesses nonprofit organizations and industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality. Other possible uses include work on water, sewer and broadband infrastructure and government services such as road building and maintenance, infrastructure, government administrative staff and facilities, environmental remediation, cyber security and police, fire and public safety services including fire trucks and police cars.
Rhodes pointed out that the ARPA has strict, uniform guidelines for procedure, including project bidding requirements.
Trustee Tom Craft said that while the board previously indicated it would consider using the money to resolve storm water problems in certain neighborhoods, there are places where the installation cost would be about $1,000 per foot, which would mean the township could use nearly half of its ARPA allocation on one mile of infrastructure.
”We have almost $1.2 million (in ARPA funds) and, if we do it right and use Ohio Public Works Commission funds with it, we can do a lot of roads if you can get it in the time slot,” he said.
Program rules require that ARPA funds be committed to projects by the end of 2024 and work completed by the end of 2026.
Craft said the township would be able to resurface “a lot” of roads with the federal dollars; it could use the $260,000 generated by the township road levy to maintain them.
Madison resident Tom Brandt said maintenance is needed on roads that were resurfaced in the recent past, pointing out that Ridge Road and Grace Street were two of the first to get paved after the road levy was passed and already are “falling apart.”
“There’s no reason why we can’t maintain roads and make them last,” he said. “I use as an example Paradise Road that Mifflin Township paved a number of years ago but then they tar and chipped it twice and that road is still in good condition.”
Craft said if trustees want to address some critical flooding issues, they could apply for a maximum $250,000 OPWC grant and use ARPA funds for a 50% match to do some work in the Manner Dive neighborhood.
“There just one three-foot culvert that takes all the water there,” he added.
Trustees’ Chairwoman Cathy Swank said there is a similar problem on Bahl Avenue where the water “doesn’t go anywhere.” She also pointed out that the township still has to find money to buy needed major pieces of equipment for the road department.
It also was suggested that ARPA money be set aside to repair the roof on the road department salt shed to prevent groundwater contamination. Craft said he would rather see the township apply for a grant to build a new salt shed.
“I don’t want to fix that (old one) anymore,” Craft said.
Trustee agreed to seek a legal opinion from an ARPA specialist to see if the funds can be used for road work before setting priorities and discussing possible projects in more detail. The board said it will schedule another ARPA work session at its regular meeting Monday.
On a separate issue, Trustee Jim Houser reported that the Richland County Land Bank was awarded a $41,250 state grant to clean up a site next to the main township fire station where a former business building was demolished.
“Now it’s a matter of getting a contract and getting it cleaned up,” Houser said.
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