GIRARD Clock is ticking on dam money

The city's fiscal oversight commission could not muster enough votes to recommend the work.
GIRARD -- The Army Corps of Engineers has given the city until Sept. 16 to use a $1.14 million federal grant to breach Lower Girard Lake Dam or lose the money.
Mayor James J. Melfi informed the city's fiscal oversight commission Tuesday afternoon of the deadline, hours after receiving it from the Corps.
There has been a debate in the financially strapped community over whether the dam should be breached, rehabilitated or replaced.
City council's committee dealing with city-owned land will meet at 6 p.m. today at the Girard Multi-Generational Center at the former Tod Woods School to discuss alternatives.
Melfi told the commission the $1.14 million is about the amount needed to breach the aged concrete structure, while other alternatives will cost $5 to $10 million.
Letter from Corps
"Due to increasing budget shortfalls, it is necessary for us to utilize the money on other federal projects, rather than allow it to remain unexpended," wrote Col. Raymond K. Scrocco of the Corps' Pittsburgh district.
Scrocco warned Melfi that if the city does not commit to proceed with using the money to breach the dam, it will be used for another project.
Melfi told the commission that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has said that if the city doesn't repair or breach the dam, it will do the work at the city's expense.
The mayor pointed out the city already has a $2.2 million general fund deficit. The loss of the grant will boost the red ink to $3.3 million.
"That would be a crisis. I don't think I would have words to describe it," Melfi said.
Action postponed
On Monday, city council postponed acting on legislation to enter into an agreement with the Corps to breach the structure until its Sept. 9 meeting.
Fiscal oversight commission member Robert Delisio asked the commission Tuesday to recommend to council that the dam be breached.
The commission failed to get the required five votes for approval. Two commission members abstained.
City Councilman Joseph Lambert said he couldn't vote because of his position as a lawmaker and Atty. John Masternick said he didn't have enough information about the Corps' deadline.
Scrocco said in his letter that if the city chooses to continue to work with the Corps on the dam project, the money would be used by the Corps to administer the work, but would not be given directly to the city.
Also, Scrocco explained that dam repairs can be done in stages, but only if the city shows where the city will get the money to complete the entire project.

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