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Grant aids ice storm cleanup

Temperatures are warm and people are cooking on barbecue grills, but debris from the February ice storms remain.

According to the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, Lawrence County has received a $1.1 million grant from the National Emergency Grant program, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. These funds will provide a means to employ up to 75 temporary, full-time people whose purpose would be to help with the ongoing winter storm cleanup effort along the roadways and other affected areas in Lawrence County.

Scioto County Community Action Organization is in charge of coordinating the program for six Ohio counties, which include Lawrence, Scioto, Pike, Gallia, Jackson and Meigs. The agency's retiring coordinator of the snow and ice storm program, Richard Bussa, and Dale Bahner, the incoming coordinator, visited Thursday's Lawrence County Commission meeting to discuss the program with local officials.

The overall administration of this project will be by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Workforce Investment Act Unit and Rapid Response Section. Jim Kegley, spokesman for the Workforce Development Area No. 1 of Scioto County, said the grant will provide employment for displaced workers who are clients of Workforce Development centers. Their employment is scheduled to last for six months.

Through a previous program with the the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, workers were employed last spring and were reactivated with this current program in July.

Any damage done by the ice storm may be repaired with this grant money, including damage on private property, special projects director for the Ironton-Lawrence County CAO Dale Mootz said.

However, not just anyone can have their private property repaired, Bussa said. A person must meet the income guidelines for the CAO's summer cooling program. Also, the grant money only supplies the needed labor for the repairs. The property owner must pay for the building materials. Another stipulation is that the workers can only restore the property back to its original condition. They cannot restore the property to a better condition.

Government property, such as county and township roads and cemeteries, will be given first priority when deciding who gets the help. Second on the list are private non-profit agencies. Private property is third.

A large area of concern is cleaning up streams riddled with trees and debris after the storms, particularly Symmes Creek.

Mootz and some of the Scioto County officials passed out photos of some of the Symmes Creek damage which included fallen trees along the waterway. Cleaning this up, Mootz said, would require large equipment. The grant only provides money for labor, so hiring a contractor to perform this work is out of the question. However, he said officials are looking to see if that can be changed.

Through a previous grant program, the Lawrence Soil and Water Conservation District had been awarding grants of approximately $1,000 per property owner to some property owners with storm damage, Mootz estimated. If some of those property owners had not used all of the money they obtained through the grant, they could possibly use that money to foot the bill for the equipment, while the CAO's program could supply the labor.

The matter will be discussed further at a Lawrence County Commission meeting at the Lawrence Soil and Water Conservation district office at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The office is located on State Route 217.