Butler County closer to awarding $75M in federal rescue funds

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Butler County has requested updated expense requests from 11 governments or organizations that have asked for a portion of the county’s $75 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds.

The county received nearly $200 million in requests for projects that range from economic development, workforce development, social services, infrastructure, healthcare, bike trail expansion and a new county morgue.

After County Administrator Judi Boyko collected each commissioners’ individual picks, she said the commissioners unanimously support in some form or another 21 of the projects. Since the requests came in last summer and inflation has exploded since then the commissioners asked for updated proposals on the following:

  • The Butler Tech request for $24 million for new advanced aviation and manufacturing facilities;
  • A $11.5 million request to fix failing infrastructure in College Corner, Millville, New Miami and Seven Mile;
  • Miami University’s $10 million ask for the College@Elm workforce development incubator;
  • $6 million for Middletown’s Sonny Hill Community Center;
  • $2.4 million to demolish and remediate the Middletown Paperboard site;
  • A $1.9 million ask for Booker T. Washington Community Center upgrades;
  • $1.4 million in revenue replacement for Butler County Visitor’s Bureau;
  • A $520,526 dental van for Primary Health Solutions;
  • A new $200,000 Butler County Regional Transit Authority route;
  • $275,000 for the HYPE Youth Program
  • The Health Management Group’s LPN pathways to RN program for $125,000

The commissioners agreed to proceed with three projects, countywide high speed internet, helping townships with road work and the Middletown Paperboard project. Acting Middletown City Manager and Fire Chief Paul Lolli told the Journal-News they hope to have their updated proposal for the Paperboard project by week’s end, but inflation has definitely changed the request.

“I have gotten an updated cost which is in the vicinity of $3.3 million so that’s about a 48% increase,” Lolli said. “Inflation’s really hurting us.”

The original estimate of $2.4 million was from March 2021. The U.S. Labor Department recently said the April increase pushed inflation to 8.3%, a rate not seen in decades. Consumer products and construction material costs are up. He said he is getting a second opinion on the price estimate.

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter asked Lolli to give them verification on whether the project fits within the ARPA parameter. He said their law department is working on that request.

“We’re very confident it can, we just want to make sure we’re not missing anything and that we can make the most use out of the county’s ARPA funds as possible,” Lolli said.

The commissioners agreed to invest $5 million helping townships repave their roads. County Engineer Greg Wilkens recently presented the commissioners several different funding scenarios.

All three favor giving a base amount and additional allocations based on the number of township miles. They tentatively agreed to give Wilkens $1.25 million for county roads, a $200,000 base for each township and with the additional allocations the range is $526,229 for West Chester Twp. to $216,165 for tiny Lemon Twp. The county maintains 266 miles, West Chester 227 and Lemon Twp. 11.

They won’t take action on that allotment until next year because the money will fund 2023 road projects.

Boyko said the county prosecutor’s office is reviewing a request for proposals on the countywide broadband project. The commissioners appear to favor a $10 million investment for that project.

There are six other projects the commissioners like but did not ask for further information, they are fixing roads at the county fairgrounds that were ripped up during mass testing and vaccination clinics ($2 million); a Fairfield project to redevelop Ohio 4 ($5 million); relocating the Oxford Senior Center ($325,000); the Shared Harvest foodbank ($500,000), a new county morgue money for the general health district ($2.9 million) and general health district ($500,000).

“When I presented ranges of preferred projects and then further narrowed when there was more consensus on a funding amount those are the projects we started with to request further information,” Boyko said. “There are other projects potentially where the commissioners may have consensus on funding but the amount is vastly different so further evaluation is necessary.”

There are other projects lower on the priority list a majority of the board supports and other funds the county could use other than ARPA but those issues have not been discussed. Carpenter wants to use a mix of ARPA, leftover CARES and other coronavirus relief money and the county general fund to pay for a total of $98 million worth of projects.

Commissioner T.C. Rogers has said he won’t approve general fund expenditures.

“If we haven’t agreed on the amount and we change the amounts then I’m going to change amounts on other things to make my $74 million,” Rogers said. “I know there are different figures and in some cases they are several million dollars apart.”

Carpenter told the Journal-News “I’m working on just kicking the ball forward.”

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