Clean drinking water in community’s future

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 24, 2023

Macedonia Hill residents get big boost from grant

There are still many homes in Lawrence County that do not have access to public drinking water.

Macedonia Hill residents have worked independently for years trying to get a public drinking water provider to service their area. The reason why it has not happened is due to the high cost of installing the infrastructure needed to service the area.

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In 2018, the Lawrence County Rural Water District was formed to help identify these underserved areas. 

The District’s goal is to highlight these areas, determine a servicing cost and search for funding. For the past few years, the Lawrence County Rural Water District, on behalf of the Macedonia residents, has formed partnerships with the Lawrence County

Commissioners, RCAP’s Kurtis Strickland and the Hecla Water Association. 

Together, the group has sought out funding for this multi-million-dollar project. In 2021, their project received a $250,000 grant to perform planning and engineering. Project cost had to be reevaluated annually to adjust for inflation. The latest cost estimate was more than $5 million.

In December 2022, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, gave the project life by awarding $2 million in grant funds to get it started. Last week, project officials received greater news for the Macedonia residents. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine awarded the project another $3.6 million in grant funding to see the group move forward on service. 

These large grants, combined with contributions from the Lawrence County Commissioners in the amount of $250,000 and Hecla Water Association, should cover the cost associated with construction.

Once all funds are secured the group will proceed with easement acquisition, bidding awarding and ordering of construction materials. A date to begin construction is still yet to be determined. This phase of the project will take time as well.

The DeWine-Husted administration launched the Ohio BUILDS water infrastructure program in 2021 as a continuation of Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, which launched in 2019 to focus on ensuring plentiful, clean, and safe water for communities across the state.  In total, $500 million has been dedicated to the program, and a fifth round awarding additional funding will be announced later this summer.

The first three rounds of the program, awarded in October 2021, November 2021, and December 2021, were funded with $250 million from the American Rescue Plan Act appropriated by the 134th Ohio General Assembly. In response to the tremendous demand for water infrastructure support, the legislature added an additional $250 million in ARPA funding to the program through House Bill 45, which was signed by DeWine in January 2023.

The American Rescue Plan Act was passed by congressional Democrats and signed onto law by President Joe Biden in 2021.

“At development, we’re working to build strong communities so that when people come to our state, we have the infrastructure and amenities to support them,” Lydia Mihalik, director of Development, said. “We’re grateful to the Ohio legislature for additional funding to make these critical investments and help prepare our communities for continued growth.” 

In addition to water infrastructure upgrades, Ohio BUILDS strategically invests in a broad range of projects to improve quality of life and support economic growth such as broadband expansion, brownfield redevelopment, the demolition of blighted buildings, and more.   

Additional information on the Ohio BUILDS water infrastructure grant program can be found on the program webpage.   

EDITOR’S NOTE — CLARIFICATION: A story in Wednesday’s edition of The Tribune regarding the announcement of funding quoted a video on the Lawrence County Rural Water District Facebook page, in which District president Dave Lucas said work could begin within six months. Officials say this was an incorrect estimate by Lucas and the project will need more time for construction to begin.