MAHONING COUNTY COMMISSIONERS 4 public utilities contracts approved

The Mahoning Avenue bridge will be renamed to honor Joseph Caskey.
LAKE MILTON -- Two dozen roses and 27 years later, Joe Caskey's crusade has a $20 million price.
Mahoning County Commissioners approved four contracts Tuesday, part of long-awaited extension of water and sewer services to Lake Milton and Craig Beach residents. They also voted to rename the Mahoning Avenue Bridge over Lake Milton the Joseph P. Caskey Memorial Bridge.
Commissioners Anthony T. Traficanti and David Ludt were among several people at the American Legion Hall here who paid homage to Caskey, who began a nearly one-man crusade in 1978 to secure public utilities for Lake Milton and Craig Beach residents.
Quest for community
Kelly Hettick of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Caskey's quest began with a $9 million to $13 million estimate and with pencil, ink and crayon drawings of Lake Milton on three sheets of paper. Today, the related paper work for Lake Milton water and sewer projects fills at least one filing cabinet, and Hettick said the project will likely cost about $20 million rather than the $14 million and $16 million quotes given in recent weeks.
Caskey was remembered as a man who loved the Lake Milton area and went the extra mile and beyond for the community's betterment. Seeking federal funding for the infrastructure projects, he once sent two dozen roses to the wife of a U.S. senator who could push for federal grants.
Caskey's wife, Lydia and a son, John, attended Tuesday's meeting. Several people in attendance were in tears as an emotional John Caskey spoke about his father, who died of cancer in 2001.
Hettick explained that the $20 million cost includes about $3 million from the county. Sometimes work done locally is missed in the scope of such a project, he said.
He also told residents not to expect further federal funding for the sewer projects to come as quickly as the last $800,000 that came in one month to get the water project started. He said federal money available now for the sewer projects depends on the new federal budget year, which begins in October.
Joe Warino, county sanitary engineer, told the crowd there are five contracts out for bid on the sewer projects, with the bid openings set for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 7.
After the bids are opened, officials will have a better idea of the cost, but there could be a shortfall of about $1.5 million. Warino said, however, that local officials can't seek additional state or federal funding until they are certain of the cost.
Officials did not have a start date for the waterline construction, but Warino said USDA approval of the contracts commissioners awarded Tuesday takes about three weeks. Contractors are locked into the prices in the contracts for 90 days, he said.
The next public meeting concerning the Lake Milton projects will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at the legion hall, Warino said.

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