MOUNT VERNON — Everything is figured out except the details. Congress has appropriated $787 billion for President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and states and local municipalities have identified projects which could be up and running quickly. But the method whereby the money will be distributed has yet to be decided.
“The routing of the money is still up in the air,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis. “I think Public Works Commission will be a favored mechanism because it’s already in place.”
Mavis said the city has identified three infrastructure projects for which stimulus money could be used: The connector road between Yauger Road and Coshocton Avenue, the intersection at Ohio 229 and Edgewood Road, and the Eastern Star project, which involves connecting Ohio 229 and U.S. 36 via Upper Gilchrist Road, New Gambier Road and Eastern Star Road.
“We sent those projects in to Sen. Brown and Sen. Voinovich’s office, and Congressman Zack Space,” said Mavis. “Then it looked like the money might come to the governor’s office, so we sent the information there.”
Then, he said, it looked like the money might come to the Ohio Department of Transportation, so city officials sent the information to ODOT, as well as the District 5 office in Jacksontown.
“We thought we were covering all of the bases,” said Mavis.
One of the criteria for projects being considered is that they are shovel ready, meaning they could be up and running within two years. Mavis said the Edgewood Road intersection would probably be the first project because the city already has a set of plans ready to go.
“We had them several years ago, but not the money,” he said.
He said the city has preliminary plans and an engineer identified for the crossover road between Yauger and Coshocton roads, and that project could start within eight months.
“The more long-term project would be the Upper Gilchrist, New Gambier and Eastern Star project,” said Mavis, not only because of the cost, but also because the city, township and county would have to be involved.
“There are political issues to deal with as well as financial,” he said. “It would be a struggle to get that done in a two-year period.”
Also yet to be determined are deadlines for projects to be submitted, and how projects already approved will be handled.
“If the money goes to ODOT, you have to think they will look at projects already on the list,” said Mavis, noting that the widening of Coshocton Road is scheduled for 2011-12. “Will they push that project forward, or keep its current status and move others forward?”
If it’s Public Works, the usual deadline for submitting projects is October, with projects awarded in July.
“Will they keep that same deadline, or push it up?” he asked.
In addition to the money allocated for roads and bridges, Mavis said city officials received word that the Environmental Protection Agency might receive some of the stimulus money.
“So we sent in the Center Run interceptor project and the water and wastewater treatment plant upgrade,” he said.
Another area that might be eligible for money is safety services. Mavis said he and Safety-Service Director Dave Glass met recently with fire officials about a fire station on the far east end.
“The chief said he thought there was money in there for safety, and he felt a new fire station would be appropriate [use of the funds],” said Mavis. “I have asked the county commissioners whether they’ve put a price tag on that piece of ground at the entrance to the jail. I felt if something like this came along, that’s where we’d build it.”
Mavis said he thought the city could get a better price if land was bought from the commissioners rather than another landowner in the area.
He said Fire Chief Shawn Christy will find out if there is stimulus money for safety services, and whether a new fire station would qualify. He will also check into whether a new station could be shovel ready in two years.
Questions still to be answered include whether it will be a station with just a squad, or a station with a squad and engine, and how big the station will need to be, taking into account future growth.
A major emphasis of the stimulus package is the creation of jobs. Mavis acknowledged that the projects identified by the city might not create new jobs, but the projects would help local businesses retain employees and distribute some money into the local economy. With the bidding process, local firms may or may not be awarded the project; however, he said, even if an outside company was awarded the bid, it would benefit the city.
“They would be paying income tax, eating lunch here, maybe buy supplies here,” he said. “There are a lot of things — if they need a base material, they may buy the asphalt locally, they may buy concrete locally, they may buy gravel and aggregate locally. If it’s a curb project, they may use a local contractor.”