$5 million in pandemic relief funds will pay for roadwork in Butler County
Straight miles are one measurement, but many county roads and larger townships have multiple lanes — the county has 617 lane miles — and cost more to redo.
Carpenter asked Wilkens if that money would make a dent in township paving programs.
“Some of the smaller townships are really struggling to get money more than even the bigger townships quite honestly,” Wilkens replied. “The larger cantons surely have needs because they have more kilometres. But some of the smaller cantons are having a hard time raising the funds. »
Towns in Butler County run their own road maintenance and paving programs, but Wilkens’ office bids on and oversees township road projects. The municipalities pay for the work. Since the additional projects will require more work for Wilkens staff, the commissioners also plan to pay him an administrative fee to cover these costs.
That amount is yet to be determined, but the commissioners don’t want it deducted from the $5 million.
The commissioners’ funding requests total about $200 million, including 34 proposals totaling $148 million on which they held working sessions with various other governments and groups last summer. Commissioners screened them all individually and conducted due diligence, reviewing projects ranging from economic development, workforce development, social services, infrastructure, health care, expanded bike lanes and a new county morgue, to name a few.
Helping townships repair their roads was not on the initial list, but the three commissioners are committed to this project. In their filing, one commissioner recommended $5 million, another $9 million, and the third did not list a dollar amount. It’s one of three projects the commissioners are moving forward with first as they begin allocating the funds, along with countywide high-speed internet and the demolition and cleanup of the Middletown Paperboard site.
President Joe Biden signed the US $1.9 trillion bailout bill into law on March 11 and allocated $350 billion to help local governments deal with the pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
There have been questions about whether projects like this can be funded with ARPA. The county hired accounting firm Clark Schaefer & Hackett a few months ago to help them navigate ARPA regulations.
County Administrator Judi Boyko told the Journal-News that the federal government has somewhat relaxed the rigid restrictions on the money. Governments are now allowed to spend up to $10 million on general government services, or they can calculate their revenue loss due to the pandemic. The accounting firm determined that the amount is $18 million for the county.
“ARPA has a category of expenses called general government services and these are things that may not fit well into a qualified census tract or low to moderate income, one of the more specific categories,” said said Boyko. “They’re not specifically delineated for ARPA expenses that would be health, socially disparate that kind of thing… It generally seems like it would more than likely be that general services allowance.”
Wilkens has been asking the commissioners for more money for his paving program for years and Dixon has told him he’s willing to part with a few dollars from the general fund this year. Wilkens clutched his chest feigning a heart attack and Rogers said “am I sitting here next to Santa Claus”.
“We will deliver on that commitment this year,” Dixon said.
Dixon told the Journal-News he was considering giving Wilkens $2 million to $5 million from the $15 million capital improvement reserve.
With fuel prices and inflation sending the costs of roadworks projects skyrocketing – costs rose 40% for paving – some townships were considering scaling back their paving programs this year, but held on.
Township of Ross. trustees have approved a $340,895 paving program that includes four roads and if commissioners approve the additional money, the township will receive $279,661. Board chair Ellen Yordy said she was grateful to the commissioners for considering giving them money for the paving and to Wilkens for dividing the funds fairly.
“I like that Wilkens’ proposals were all three trying to keep them as equal as possible for all townships,” Yordy said. “Usually it’s the bigger townships that benefit the most because they’re big and they have more roads. But in the same way, small municipalities cannot afford to collect additional money to repair the roads.