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Changes put hold on sewer projects



Published: Wed, April 13, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Changes in federal funding are part of President Bush's Strengthening America's Communities program.

WARREN -- Federal and county budget cuts are holding back Trumbull County's ability to set growth projects in motion.

Alan Knapp, planning commission director, gave the commission's board some bad news during its Tuesday meeting.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has notified the county that a $190,000 grant for a Kinsman Township sewer project won't be funded because of federal budget cuts.

"We need to look at different options now. The official line is, it's on hold or not funded right now," he said.

County commissioners in February authorized a pre-application for a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration for phase one of the project. The $400,000 EDA grant was supposed to free up $190,000 from the USDA and $90,000 from the county's revolving loan fund.

The project would include a sanitary sewer along Burnett East Road to state Route 5. The effort would allow the county to accept ownership of a closed Kraft cheese plant that will serve future businesses and current ventures in the area.

Bigger picture

News about Kinsman's project is part of a more ominous picture, Knapp explained. The Bush administration's Strengthening America's Communities initiative would consolidate 18 existing programs. The administration says this new $3.71 billion unified grant-making program will better target assistance and achieve greater results for low-income people and economically-distressed areas.

Knapp, though, warned the total federal planning programs could be cut by 75 percent, which would drastically reduce the dollars available to counties. Although this has not been approved by Congress, doing so would prove devastating next year, he said.

"How are you going to plan ahead when they're going to cut it this drastically?" he asked.

At the county level of funding, the planning commission had a $603,848 budget last year; this year it's been cut to $383,844. Two staffers involved in mapping and housing matters have been laid off.

Because of this, the planning commission is no longer accepting applications for housing rehabilitation projects. Commitments will be kept for the HOME Consortium project in Warren, Maplewood Park community distress project in Hubbard Township and a proposed community distress project in McKinley Heights (Weathersfield Township). Knapp said the staff simply doesn't have the time to take on any more.

An arrangement with the county Sanitary Engineer's Department is saving two planning commission jobs. The departments agreed that the engineer will provide the commission with $78,000 for services related to water and sewer lines. The money from the engineer's water and sewer fund keeps two employees working through year's end.

Current work continues

The planning commission staff will continue completing a downtown plan for Hubbard city, to be submitted in May to the Ohio Department of Development. It involves a marketing study, design review standards and a revitalization plan. Last year, the city was awarded a $15,000 grant for the planning phase. City officials will apply for a $400,000 grant for the project, money that could be available by late this year.

"It's going to be tough, but we made a commitment to do it," Knapp said. Also, the grant is needed for staff salaries this year, he said.

The planning commission staff is doing more grants than planning this year, because grants are where its funding comes from, he explained.

There was some good news: $150,000 in state Issue 2 funds has been approved for the state Route 5-Ohio Turnpike sanitary sewer project. "Those funds will be available in July," at which time bids will be sought, Knapp said.

Also, two dams on the Mahoning River are about to be removed. A study by the Ohio Department of Transportation showed that removing the dams in Warren could reduce local flooding by more than one inch.

The dam at Lover's Lane will be removed this month; a dam north of Summit Street will be removed later in coordination with a river dredging project.




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