This I-75 traffic headache is on West Chester’s projects list for 2019

Traffic along the Union Centre Boulevard interchange ramps at I-75, Wednesday, Mar. 29, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

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Traffic along the Union Centre Boulevard interchange ramps at I-75, Wednesday, Mar. 29, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

A new interchange at Union Centre Boulevard is expected to be the largest non-payroll expense this year for West Chester Twp., which should solve woes for one of the busiest interchanges in the Cincinnati region.

West Chester Twp. trustees recently heard plans for projects and purchases for 2019 that expect to total $49.3 million in operations this year and $32 million in capital improvements.

The largest expense — other than payroll — this year will be $14 million for the interchange project over Interstate 75. It won’t cost a dime of taxpayer money.

The diverging diamond interchange at Union Centre Boulevard is expected to cost about $14 million and will be one of many West Chester projects to benefit from funding from tax increment financing districts, which use taxpayer payments to support special funds that fuel projects for specific areas.

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“This is an aggressive yet flexible budget,” said Township Administrator Larry Burks. “We can respond to emergencies if we need to and we’re utilizing the planning of years and years past, preparing us for the future and the TIF districts allow us to be aggressive in some of the things that we need to do as a township and allow us to use the general fund revenues in critical areas where the TIFs don’t apply. It makes us flexible in that regard,”

There are nine active TIF districts in the township, the three most prominent are Union Centre Boulevard, the Ohio 747 district and the central business district. The TIF money must be spent in those areas but there are a whole host of projects and equipment that are TIF-eligible, according to Finance Director Ken Keim.

Union Centre Boulevard, The Square at Union Centre, the library, the fire station, the barn at Beckett Park, portions of snow plows and police vehicles were all paid for with TIF funds.

“It has to be a capital improvement with a useful life of more than five years,” Keim said. “And it has to serve that area.”

Other than infrastructure, the two biggest pieces of the budget pay for public safety. The police budget for next year is almost $18 million and fire and emergency medical total almost $17 million.

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“By continuing to operate efficiently under our levy last approved by voters in 2006, the fire department has limited the burden to our taxpayers,” Fire Chief Rick Prinz said.

Prinz said his department won’t seek another station this year either, but it is planning to buy a $650,000 pumper, with $150,000 of the funds coming out of the TIF.

The township plans to spend $2.2 million paving about 10 miles of roads and sealing another 2.6 miles. About $900,000 comes from the roads fund and $1.2 million is TIF money.

“I’m thankful for the past trustees that used to be here, they have done a tremendous job setting up the creation of this TIF project that make a lot of things happen,” said Trustee Lee Wong. “We are the envy of many townships and cities.”

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