ARPA funding request deadline set by Jefferson County Commissioners | News, Sports, Jobs

STEUBENVILLE — With just about $5 million in American Rescue Plan funds that haven’t been spoken for, Jefferson County commissioners decided Thursday it’s time to cut off requests for assistance.

Commissioners set their next meeting, moved to Aug. 24 because of a scheduling conflict, as the deadline.

“We’ve had them submitted, I think, to the point where I don’t know that we can take many more requests, we have to act on what we’re going to act on, deny what we’re going to deny,” Commissioner Tom Graham said. “I’m ready for the bricks and mortar stuff — water, sewer, engineering roads, that’s where I’m at. I think that’s where the bulk ought to be going now, but that’s just me speaking.”

Commissioner Dave Maple said he’d like to see them set aside some money for broadband: They’ve already appropriated $50,000 for a study, but he figures they’re going to have funds for local matches for grants and to pay the consultant, “it doesn’t even have to be ARPA.”

“I think we always knew and felt there would be a small piece of that funding going to these different projects that have been in front of us, but we’re not moving on the bigger ones and the smaller ones are building up,” Maple said. “We just have to call time out and get the bricks and mortar money spent.”

Other shared ARPA funding concerns include additional funding for the county engineer to tackle road slips, water line extensions and additional paved parking for the Towers building.

“I’ll say it publicly right now, I would love to take $300,000 and put it toward Friendship Park, if we could, for docks and boats,” Commissioner Tony Morelli added. “I’m not asking you guys to do it now, I’m just saying there might be other projects we want to do.”

“There’s things, big-ticket things, we’d like to do,” he elaborated. “Water line extensions, we’ve already got a lot of areas that have petitioned that they’d like to have water lines. The one the water department ranked No. 1, it was over $1 million, and that was over four or five years ago and we only have $5 million left,” he said. “I’m not saying that’s what we’ll do, but that gives you an idea. And broadband … I’m sure the task force is going to come back (and ask for money) for local matches, paying the consultant. We’ve hired a consultant so they’re going to have an annual cost for their work–part of their work order is to help us find funding. We’ve had numbers of $50 million to get broadband and make it available to everyone in Jefferson County, so we don’t have enough money to even come close to funding it, but I think we should put (some) aside for other expenses that come up.

Graham, meanwhile, voiced alarm over a conversation he’d had with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency representative who seemed not fully aware of the work in progress in Smithfield.

Jefferson County Water and Sewer District Supervisor Mike Eroshevich pointed out that once Smithfield project is done, “This board and district will have spent $35 million in a decade on sewer systems.”

“And most of that is helping communities, taking over (failing systems),” Morelli said.

“EPA came to us and said, ‘You guys need to take over Smithfield’, and the day after we took over Smithfield they gave us findings and orders and said you’re out of compliance,” Maple added.

“We had to take the Smithfield system over because EPA failed to keep system in compliance for so long, then they said ‘Now you guys can do it’.”

Graham said the commission “was very proactive in doing what was necessary, what was required by EPA, taking care of what we were supposed to take care of, even though we inherited a mess.”

Commissioners also learned Jefferson Soil & Water Conservation District is preparing to launch a stream debris removal program. The program was funded by a $20,000 grant from the county as well as funds from JB Green Team.

Yellow Creek-Cross Creek Watershed Coordinator Timothy Bell said JSWCD will accept applications from Aug. 22 through Sept. 16. They’ll do site visits and assessments, ranking each project “to determine which sites should be our highest priorities so that we can quickly move towards making the largest impact we can.”

“After visiting each site and ranking them … we plan to open up projects for bidding by local contractors,” he said.

If all goes as planned, Bell said the contracted work would be done by the end of November so JSWCD could file temporary conservation easements to ensure landowners follow through and keep the streams clean for the specified time.

Bell said they’re confident the program “will reduce the risk of future flooding” and said it wouldn’t have been possible without the funding from commissioners and JB Green Team.

“This, potentially, could be very good, it’s certainly needed,” Morelli said, pointing out landowners could “just file one of these and someone from your department comes out and does a survey, you rank them and then decide which one’s to address.”

In other business, commissioners:

— Were notified Ohio’s Emergency Management Agency had reimbursed the county engineer $291,810.63 to cover the cost of repairing road slips caused by flooding.

— Awarded the contract for Jefferson County Road 46 resurfacing to Shelly & Sands for $231,363, and the contract for pavement marking contract to J.D. Striping & Services, $143,757.60.

— Approved Jefferson County Juvenile Court’s request for $2,254.82 in local matching funds for a grant from Ohio Law Enforcement Body Armor Program. The $6,764.46 grant will cover 75 percent of the cost of new vests for eight probation officers.

— Authorized the Jefferson County Airport Authority to advertise for a part-time employee. The airpark is looking to pay someone $15 an hour for 29 hours a week.

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