MOUNT VERNON — On Monday, the Commissioners of Knox County met with representatives from Morrow County, the village of Fredericktown and the Ohio Department of Transportation to discuss a proposed upgrade of Ohio 95 in Knox and Morrow counties.
The tentative project has been in the works for around a year now, according to County Commissioner Allen Stockberger. The Knox County Commissioners intend to submit an Appropriations Request Form to Congressman Zack Space to obtain federal funds for the project, and hope that the Morrow County Commissioners will submit a similar proposal to Congressman Jim Jordan. The deadline for submitting an Appropriations Request Form to Space’s office is Feb. 26. Stockberger noted that “we just missed” the deadline last year.
Stockberger also mentioned that Sen. Sherrod Brown had visited Mount Vernon last fall and that he, Stockberger, had mentioned the issue of Ohio 95 during the meeting. However, Stockberger continued, noting that “it’s really not much of a secret ... that [Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis] is not particularly supportive of [the Ohio 95 project].” Furthermore, Stockberger said that he likes to think of this project as “complimentary, not competitive,” though he acknowledges that he understands Mavis’ objections to the project because it will not directly benefit the community of Mount Vernon. Stockberger also noted that there is “broad-based community support” for the Ohio 95 project in northwestern Knox County.
Knox County Commissioner Bob Wise said that during a recent meeting with Mavis, the commissioners said they would “consider” and “anticipate future improvements of [Ohio] 13 south” and try “to work towards that at a later date,” and further noted that Mavis was not the only official in Knox County that didn’t support the project.
“Even though it may not be the highest-traveled roadway in the county, it still would be nice to have it fixed-up,” said Stockberger, referring to Ohio 95. Morrow County Commissioner Rod Clinger noted that Ohio 95 is “the easiest way to I-71 from Knox County.”
Stockberger continued, pointing out that the curves along Ohio 95 in Knox County are “more of a threat” to trucks, compared with passenger vehicles. “It’s time for Knox County to get a little piece of the action on highway improvement,” said Stockberger. He also noted that businesses from Mount Vernon, such as Rolls-Royce and United Precast Inc., use Ohio 95 to access I-71 when they ship north. “I believe that the road [Ohio 95] has a greater importance than what Mayor Mavis may believe,” said Stockberger.
Julia Gwinn, planning administrator for District 5 of ODOT, pointed out that for most highway construction or improvement projects, at least 20 percent of federal funds must be matched from local sources. Gwinn and Randy Comisford, local projects coordinator with ODOT, both urged caution in the wording on the request forms that will be filed with Ohio representatives and senators. Comisford said that the wording in the Appropriation Request Form should “be as vague as possible” so that there would not be problems with the distribution of the money which could possibly limit the scope of construction. Stockberger suggested calling the project a “safety upgrade.”
The group, representing Knox County, the village of Fredericktown, Morrow County and ODOT, agreed to meet in Chester Township on March 17 to further discuss the project. Before adjourning the meeting, Stockberger noted that this was the smallest group ever to attend a meeting concerning the Ohio 95 project.
Later on Monday, the Knox County Commissioners met with representatives from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, which represents various counties, cities, villages and townships in the Mid-Ohio region. Knox County is currently not a member of MORPC, and joining would cost around $12,889, according to Chester Jourdan Jr., executive director of MORPC.
As the meeting continued, Jourdan discussed several issues facing the region, including the issue of transportation in the region. Commissioner Stockberger then mentioned the Ohio 95 project to Jourdan. “We’re in the process of applying for an appropriation,” said Stockberger, “what role, if any, could MORPC play in assisting us in an endeavor of this sort?” Jourdan then mentioned numerous contacts, committees and groups that are involved with transportation and funding, both in Ohio and in Washington, D.C.
Stockberger mentioned that he and the other commissioners feel slightly “overwhelmed” with the Appropriations Request Form, and Wise thought that Ohio 95 from Fredericktown to the county line has “never been updated.” “I really hadn’t thought about MORPC being a resource on ... something like this earlier,” said Stockberger. He further noted that Knox County has been reluctant to join MORPC in the past, also pointed out that this was the first time that the commissioners had met and discussed transportation with MORPC.
Jourdan said that all of the benefits of membership with MORPC were in the literature that he left with the commissioners.