By ROBERT CONNELLY
Austintown Township has put two $1 million payments from the new racino toward improving its roads and paying off a loan for a new communications department.
Township Administrator Michael Dockry said the two payments were received in October 2013 and April 2014 with about $1 million being applied to this year’s resurfacing of township roads.
An additional $742,000 is going to be used in September to pay the remaining balance of a communications loan, which originally was $830,000.
That leaves $258,000 for the township, and Dockry said officials have “not yet decided how it will be spent.”
These payments, as well as an annual payment of $500,000, were part of Ohio House Bill 386 that Gov. John Kasich signed into law in 2012 allowing video-lottery terminals and racinos to do business in the state.
Each $1 million payment was divided evenly with half designated for capital improvement and the other half for discretionary spending.
“We don’t want to leave Austintown residents in debt,” Trustee Lisa Oles said. “We were fortunate that we had the first $1 million payment going” toward the communications system, she said.
“If we were sitting there with an $800,000 loan out there, and looking to get another loan for another project,” a bank wouldn’t approve, Trustee Jim Davis said. Paying off the debt for the communications upgrade, which was mandated by the Federal Communications Commission, makes future loans for mandated projects easier, Davis said.
Boardman and Austintown townships shared the cost of a $1.5 million Motorola radio system that went live in January 2013. The cost was evenly split between the two townships.
Davis said, “The biggest thing in the mind of the public is, ‘When are the roads getting paved?’ ... To be able to spend $1 million [on paving] is unprecedented.”
“Austintown residents have said they want more roads paved, and this will allow us to pave more roads in the future,” Oles said.
Both trustees spoke of improvements to police and fire departments as well as infrastructure as future possibilities for racino revenue.
The township will receive yearly $500,000 payments from the racino and where that money will go will be determined on a need basis, Oles said.
“Whatever we use the money for will only go toward improving the quality of life in Austintown,” she said.