Railroad project to finally begin


Renovation of the railroad line owned by Greenfield is planned to start, Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin said at the Wednesday’s meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners.

Wilkin said it’s been three-and-a-half years since the county was awarded a Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grant to improve its railroad. He said the railroad is currently a Class 1, which is “not good” and means it’s a 10 mph railroad. He then said the goal is to make the railroad Class 2, which would move it up to a 25 mph railroad.

Wilkin said last week Greenfield officials were told that the CRISI Grant was ready to start, following about three-and-a-half years of waiting. He said Greenfield reached out to both state Senators Shane Wilkin and J.D. Vance at the beginning of the year due to the grant being federal.

Wilkin said the grant is 50/50, and that the project received $1.7 million just from the grant, with Greenfield having to raise $1.7 million locally.

Concerning how the county will pay its portion of the funds through its Revolving Loan Fund, board president Terry Britton said he would be “fine” with either just going through the Ohio Rail Development Commission or going through Wilkin. However, Nicole Oberrecht, the county’s American Rescue Plan Act coordinator, said that she’d be fine with just receiving invoices from the Ohio Rail Development Commission.

Wilkin said that the plan for the project would be to start in Midland and work its way toward Greenfield, with some of the project having already been done following a previous railroad improvement project around 2016 that had to be stopped due to a train derailment.

Considering the four-year gap since the grant was approved and questions on whether things might have changed on what needed to be done, Wilkin said that there would “always” need to be something done to the railroad. He said that maybe two years from now, Greenfield could look for a smaller maintenance grant through the Ohio Railroad Development Commission. However, he also said that “right now” he thought the money would make a “big difference.”

Wilkin said that after the work is finished, he’d love to lease out the railroad to the Indiana and Ohio Railroad, the rail operator, for $1 to control the revenue and costs. He said the reason for a lease would be because the village doesn’t want the railroad to be commissioned because multiple Highland County businesses use it.

Wilkin said he would need to submit an extension letter because the due date for the project was at the end of the month, which he also said grant administrators were “fine with.”

In other news, Doug Karnes, a partner at McCarty and Associates, said there were multiple upcoming dates for the Highland County Records Storage Building. He said they planned to have the drawings finished by April 21 and that the plan is to put it out for bid or have it ready to be bid on May 5 with those bids open the week of June 2.

Karnes said that if the bids get opened and agreed upon, the contract would be signed on or around June 15, 2023, and then construction would start. He also said that the completion timeline for the project was 300 days or roughly 10 months. He said that window would mean the building would be occupiable after those 300 days.

Karnes also said that the company surveyed the Highland County Justice Center and found out that an adjacent facility had its fence go about 100 feet onto the justice center’s property. He said that if that is moved back to where it’s supposed to be, a building could be built in the new space.

Andy Dickerson, executive director of the Cardinal Land Conservancy, said the organization is a sponsor for the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program. He said that each year the organization gives a little pot of money from ODA to purchase easements and that the two farms that ranked the highest were ones from Highland County.

Dickerson said the Geers’ 220-acre farm ranked the highest, meaning it was the one to be funded. He also said the Hiatt’s farm was the second-highest rated and would not be funded.

Highland County Auditor Alex Butler revealed the newest sales tax numbers for March 2023. They showed that the county received $879,309.81 in sales tax receipts in March 2023, which was $865.48 less than the same month last year. Overall, the numbers totaled $2,432,151.25 for the first three months of the year.

“I would say, during the first quarter of the year, things are stable,” Butler said.

Britton announced that the Department of Commerce sent a notice that all Class C and D permits for alcoholic beverages would expire on June 1, 2023, and that those that wanted to maintain their privileges needed to file a renewal application.

Britton also said Highland County received $259,581 for the Healthy Aging Grant from the Department of Aging.

The board of commissioners approved a maintenance agreement renewal for the ADA Alert Monitoring System at the Highland County Sheriff’s Office for $6,615.71.

The board made three approvals. It approved aan MOU from Southern Ohio ESC for Transeo Implementation, a quotation from Buckeye State Pipe and Supply Co. for pipes for general hookup and maintenance for $9,024.76 and a new liquor license for 1st Stop, Inc. in Belfast.

In other news, there were three resolutions approved by the board of commissioners, which are as follows:

Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.

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