OVRDC eyes local projects

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2003

In spite of possible federal funding cuts that would seriously affect the future of the Ohio Valley Regional Develop Commission, local leaders Thursday sat down to prioritize projects they hope will eventually get funding in the Appalachian Regional Commission's 2004 fiscal year.

The list of local projects includes water service and access roads in the South Ironton Industrial Park, renovations to the Coal Grove wastewater treatment plant and a diabetic care initiative through the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization.

OVRDC Assistant Director John Hemmings III said he is confident Congress will override president Bush's proposal to cut $33 million from the $72 million ARC reauthorization bill. Hemmings pointed out that the ARC has faced funding cuts in the past, only to have the money restored by Congress along the way.

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"I see a lot of congressional support," Hemmings said. "Appalachia is made up of 13 states and 10 governors are in support of the restoration of funds. I feel positive. We've got a lot of support right now."

Ohio receives approximately $4.4 million annually from the OVRDC. In the previous three years, Gov. Taft has matched the federal funding with state monies. The OVRDC is awaiting finalization of the state budget to see if Taft will continue matching the federal funds.

Ironton city leaders are seeking $300,000 from the OVRDC's Area Development program for their efforts to construct access roads, run water lines and improve the south side water tank that would service the South Ironton Industrial Park. The total cost of that city's project is approximately $900,000. That project was given highest priority among Lawrence County's four submitted projects requesting Area Development funds.

Ranked second on the priority list was a joint project by Ohio University Southern and Collins Career Center to establish a training center for work force development.

Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital's request for $250,000 to purchase medical equipment to serve Lawrence County was ranked third.

The total cost of OLBH's project was $670,000.

To qualify for money from the Area Development program, a project must be geared toward economic development and have the potential to create jobs. Entities may submit applications to get OVRDC funding for 80 percent of the total cost of their project.

Hecla Water's request for $300,000 for its $1 million plan to expand water service was given first priority in the "Distressed Counties" program. That program provides funding for necessities in economically disadvantaged areas of the state. Lawrence County is one of four OVRDC counties that are designated as distressed. The others are Pike, Scioto and Vinton.

The village of Coal Grove's request for $183,000 for help pay for rehabilitation of its wastewater treatment plant was ranked second among local projects on the "Distressed Counties" program list.

"We have submitted applications to the Ohio Public Works Commission for four years in a row (for this project) and every year we've been turned down," Coal Grove Mayor Tom McKnight said. "But we just have to keep at it and be persistent. It seems to be so competitive."

The CAO's request for $240,000 for its Diabetic Initiative project was ranked third. However, Hemmings said state officials are particularly interested in using OVRDC monies to fund health projects, so this projects third- ranked status may not necessarily preclude it from getting approval for funding.

The village of Proctorville requested $300,000 for its

half-million-dollar water line improvement project. That request was ranked fourth.

Additionally, the village of Coal Grove is seeking "Access Road" funding for traffic lights at the intersection of U.S. 52 and Marion Pike. McKnight said new development in that area has made signalization an absolute necessity.

If the money for fiscal year 2004 is not restored to the ARC, Hemmings said he thinks the future of the OVRDC will be seriously affected. The commission would probably no longer have funding for projects but would instead offer advise to local entities on how they can seek funding through other means.

Eligible local projects will be reviewed and prioritized along with other projects throughout

the region before being submitted to the Governor's Office of Appalachia for state approval. State-approved projects then are submitted to the ARC for final approval.