Funding for dam breach expires



Council still hopes to receive the funds at a later date.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
GIRARD -- Council members are hoping to draw up plans for breaching the Lower Girard Lake dam before the state-imposed deadline, but now they must find another means of paying for those plans.
Mayor James Melfi told council Monday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has informed the city that $1.1 million set aside for planning and breach of the dam has been re-appropriated.
"Years of indecisiveness has caused the city to gamble $1.1 million. As of today, the city has lost the gamble. The day of reckoning is here," he said.
The city has a consent agreement with the Ohio attorney general's office that says the city must submit partial plans by Aug. 1 to either breach or repair the dam. Completed plans must be submitted by year's end.
Any breach or dam repair would be completed by Oct. 31, 2008, under the agreement.
The $1.1 million previously had been appropriated to the city for the breach, but it was lost because the city did not use it. Council, until Melfi's announcement Monday, had hoped the money could again be made available with a request to legislators.
Councilman Tom Seidler said the $1.1 million earmarked for the dam has been re-appropriated for this year, but is not forever lost to the city. He said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan's office would have to reapply for the funds so they can be made available to the city. The earliest the funds would again be made available is October.
Seidler suggested the city use money it received from the state more than seven years ago for Girard Lakes-related issues to pay for the breach plans. He said the state gave the city $970,000 for use at the lakes, which the city has used to handle a variety of costs associated with the lakes. There is about $360,000 left.
Law Director Mark Standohar said the city, with the federal funds not immediately available, is unlikely to meet the Aug. 1 deadline. He said he is hopeful the attorney general's office does not move to cite the city immediately if council shows a continued effort to create plans for the breach.
Melfi told council the Corps is still willing to draw up plans for the breach, but council will have to pay for those plans out of another source. Council, in the meantime, passed an ordinance permitting the service director to seek estimates for the plans from two private companies.
Legal obstacle
Council also unanimously postponed an ordinance that would have transferred an undetermined amount of money from the police overtime fund to the department's wages and benefits fund. The move would have allowed the department to hire additional officers and dispatchers.
Council discussed the potential move at length during a finance committee meeting. Most council members said hiring additional police officers would be ill-advised until the body learns the outcome of a pending lawsuit with the Girard Municipal Court.
Judge Michael Bernard issued orders for increased funding in 2005 and again in 2006. The city is opposing those orders in the 11th District Court of Appeals.
Auditor Sam Zirafi told council if the judge is successful in court, the fire department and police department budgets would be reduced by $100,000 each to make up the difference.
"This issue with this mandamus order hanging over our heads is pretty much going to stop this council from doing much of anything," said Councilman Frank Migliozzi.
jgoodwin@vindy.com

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