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Ironton bridge might go up as planned

The eleventh-hour delay on the decades-long sought after Ironton-Russell Bridge might be a cloud with a silver lining.

About 10 days ago, officials from the Ohio Department of Transportation told Ironton and county officials that bidding the project had been postponed. Originally the estimated $85-million bridge to link Ohio to Kentucky from the downtown-shopping district was to be bid out on Oct. 6.

However, ODOT officials said they want to use a new private-public funding program authorized under recently passed legislation. To do that ODOT said the project would not go out to bid as scheduled.

Yet at Thursday’s county commission meeting Scott Evans, aide to state Rep. Terry Johnson, said that decision might not mean a delay in construction.

“They do not know that the start date will be impacted or the completion date,” Evans told the commission.

Evans, along with Mayor Rich Blankenship, met with ODOT director Jerry Wray days after the original announcement to try to get the project back on its original timetable.

Construction was not scheduled to begin until the spring of 2012.

“(There) was a bagful of uncertainties,” Evans said about the meeting. “They can’t speculate on whether there would be a delay.”

Originally the project was to be funded on an 80-20 basis with the majority of money coming from the Federal Highway Administration. The remainder would be the state’s responsibility.

Under the proposed partnership, the state could take private funding and leverage it across a variety of other ODOT projects to ease the financing burden on several ventures.

“Because of some issues and because of the flow of funds from the FHA, ODOT has some budgetary concerns,” Evans said. “But they have not found a partner, nor are they certain they will find a partner. It is a lot of uncertainties. We would like more concrete answers.”

ODOT has yet to make a decision on whether the bridge would go back to its original schedule, as requested by local officials.

“The design is ready to go,” Evans said. “That is the point we pushed.”

Commission President Les Boggs said he doesn’t oppose the concept of blending public and private funding for projects.

“But don’t use us as a guinea pig,” Boggs said.

In other action the commission:

• Awarded a one-year $3 million bond issue to PNC bank at an interest rate of 1.19 percent. The bonds will finance infrastructure repair work needed after the massive spring flooding. The bonds will be repaid from funds from the county engineer’s budget and the state. PNC Bank was the only financial institution that submitted a bid proposal;

• Increased the salary of Chester Moore, part-time dog warden, from $9 to $10;

• Approved a work agreement to replace a bridge on Sandusky Road;

• Appointed Ella McCown to the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board for Adams, Lawrence and Scioto counties;

• Received the weekly dog warden report where 56 dogs were destroyed, seven dogs were sold and four were redeemed. Currently there are 98 dogs in custody.