A new interchange on Interstate 75 and Millikin Road remains the top priority for Liberty Twp. trustees. Early estimates put the cost at around $79 million. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Major interchange project tops Liberty Twp. priorities for 2019

Officials consider a new interchange over Interstate 75 at Millikin Road a key to the future of the township, which makes it a key project.

“Our biggest focus right now, beyond our daily operations, is pushing this Millikin interchange project forward,” Township Administrator Kristen Bitonte said. “All hands on deck working continuously with ODOT, the engineer’s office, federal highways to see what we need to do to move that forward because obviously that is an important piece of diversifying that tax base.”

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There are about 1,200 undeveloped acres slated for commercial development in the Millikin Road area — which would hold the equivalent of 12 Liberty Centers — and another 1,200 acres would be opened up when Cox Road is extended to Ohio 63 and if an interchange is built at Millikin Road.

Bitonte said officials will be working to make a case for the state and federal government that traffic counts will warrant highway access at that point.

The township also has a tax levy and two major contracts up this year. Trustee Christine Matacic said they will likely go for a renewal of the police levy in November so “no new taxes, living within our budget on that one.”

It is also time to renegotiate the five-year deal with Butler County County Sheriff Richard Jones on the $3 million police contract. The sheriff provides deputies who are dedicated to and stationed in the township. Matacic said some have asked why the large township doesn’t employ its own police force.

“For our taxpayers it’s much cheaper in the long run,” Matacic said. “We’ve looked at what it costs to have your own police department and quite honestly it’s much more expensive than having the dedicated deputies that are in our community on a daily basis.”

The three-year firefighters union contract also expires this year.

The township is also taking a major step forward on its facilities plan. The trustees just approved going out to bid on the new $3.8 million administration building and sheriff’s outpost going up in Carriage Hill on Ohio 747. The price has dropped dramatically since the township decided to change locations from the site of the meeting center it owns on Princeton Road.

Later this year the township will go to bid on a new fire station — that will replace the Yankee Road station — at Princeton and Cincinnati Dayton roads. Trustee Tom Farrell said they are fulfilling a promise they made to the residents who approved the new fire levy in 2017.

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“We promised the voters we would be responsible stewards of their money and it’s time to build a new fire station and we’re trying to figure out what the best way is, both short term and long term to do that,” Farrell said. “The solution we believe we have is now something that we have to dot the i’s and cross the t’s and do our due diligence. But we think it will save somewhere around $800,000 to $1 million a year by building one station instead of two.”

Another important project the township is working on this year is to update the comprehensive plan. Bitonte said officialsare hiring a consultant to help facilitate that process, which will include community input.

“I think it’s key for our residents and our community to know because we really want their feedback, this is an important guideline for us to really understand what it is the residents want,” she said. “What do they want to see, what do they want the township to look like. We can’t do that without their input.”

Trustee Board President Steve Schramm said the township has some sizable tracts of prime real estate in the township and while there have been discussions about new developments there aren’t any ready to pop.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll get a couple of these larger developments off of a piece of paper and start turning some dirt…,” Schramm said. “We’ve had a couple people dangle some ideas, but I’d like to start turning some dirt on something big in the township, I kind of liked it when we had Liberty Center going.”

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