Butler County governments ask county for additional ARP funding

·5 min read

Sep. 21—Every Butler County governmental entity received a slice of federal American Rescue Plan funding, but some are looking for more money from the county commissioners to fund projects.

A total of $155.6 million is flowing to the county, cities, townships and villages, but 10 jurisdictions have also asked for $60.3 million of the commissioners' $74.5 million. The commissioners invited other governments and groups to pitch ideas that will have a long-term positive impact on the county. They received 34 requests totaling about $130 million.

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter said she doesn't believe the commissioners should preclude the requests from other governments because they also received funding.

"We don't need the money for county government at this time, Butler County government is doing very, very well so it is incumbent upon us to distribute this money to projects across the county," she said.

The largest governmental request came from the city Middletown at $22.6 million, which includes partnerships with other entities making requests, including Middletown Schools and Butler Tech. The city-only request is $6.6 million to help transform and revitalize the Ohio 4 gateway to the city and the Oakland Neighborhood.

Another $10 million is part of Butler Tech's $24 million project to create new training campuses in Middletown and Hamilton for advanced aviation and high-tech manufacturing respectively. The final $6 million is for renovating the Sonny Hill Community Center, which would be a partnership project with Middletown Schools.

The city is receiving $18.9 million and has allocated $4 million of its own ARP money to the Sonny Hill project and the revitalization effort but nothing to the Butler Tech plan.

"Strategically we prioritize our funds to go as far as they can, we're highly supportive of the project but part of the way you prioritize it is the belief funding can and should come from other sources for particular things," City Manager Jim Palenick told the Journal-News. "We know that education of that variety tends to garner support from state sources, federal sources and other things."

Palenick said if the commissioners do not award the city any money, it can do a scaled-down community center improvement and some of the revitalization work. The schools have committed $4 million to the community center project.

The next-highest request came from four villages that are asking for $11.5 million to make critical infrastructure repairs. The villages of College Corner, Millville, New Miami and Seven Mile, through consulting engineer Shawn Campbell, submitted a proposal to fix water systems, flooding and other infrastructure. Collectively the villages were allocated $452,001 in ARP funds of their own.

Campbell told the Journal-News the villages have also applied collectively for some state funding because they are not wanting to build "Taj Mahal-type projects" but "critical infrastructure needs." As such they have all committed to use some of their own money — either ARP or local funds — for the projects if the outside funding is approved.

The city of Hamilton is looking for $11.2 million for reconstruction of Tylersville Road from the city limits to Gateway Avenue, an elevated water storage tank and a storm water improvement package. The city was awarded $33.6 million in direct federal ARP funding.

"City Council has expressed their desire to place a substantial amount of our ARPA funds to replacing aging public safety buildings, and on projects that have significant ROI," City Manager Joshua Smith said.

"We have partnered with Butler County on multiple projects in the recent past, and if they make city participation a condition of their ARPA contributions, we will work with them on a mutually acceptable plan."

The city council hasn't approved any allocations of its own money yet, but Finance Director Dave Jones said about $2.5 million has been proposed for the storm water project.

Without county funding, Smith said the Tylersville Road improvement and new water tower won't happen for at least five years and the storm water improvements would be on a much smaller scale.

Fairfield officials are asking for $9 million for Ohio 4 redevelopment, to extend the Great Miami River Bike Trail and a new sewer line. Acting City Manager Don Bennett said the city has invested or plans to invest $2 million preparing for the bike trail extension, about $4.5 million on utility system improvements. The $5 million they requested for removing blight and jumpstarting redevelopment on Ohio 4 is a future dream.

"Although the city has created long-term sustainable funding sources for Route 4 redevelopment, these sources, including a TIF district and a redevelopment fund, will take a number of years to accumulate enough funding to enable us to pursue large impactful projects," Bennett said. "Receiving county ARP funding would allow us to kickstart Route 4 redevelopment much sooner than would otherwise be possible."

Bennett said the city can't do the bike trail project without the county's help. The sewer project can be done more quickly with $550,000 from the county.

The city's own ARP allocation is $4.4 million. He said city council is still formulating plans for the money and the county's funding decision will impact those plans.

West Chester Twp. asked the commissioners for $4 million for the estimated $8 million MidPointe Library expansion. The proposal calls for using tax increment financing funds to make up the difference.

"I'm committed to moving forward with the project," Trustee Ann Becker said. "I can't speak for my fellow trustees, but the size probably would be less if we didn't have a partnership with the commissioners."

The city of Oxford is looking for $1.5 million for a one-stop social services center and homeless shelter. Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene said staff is recommending the city council contribute $500,000 of its ARP allocation to support the project. The city was allocated $2.4 million and Greene said they are still formulating a final plan for the money.

Hanover Twp. has the smallest request, $487,000 for infrastructure and park improvements. The township was awarded $896,774 in ARP funds.

"The township has discussed the possibility that the commissioners will not fund any of our requests which means selecting what can be done," Township Administrator Bruce Henry said.

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