The village administration has been working to get funding to make needed improvements to Greenfield’s 29-mile rail spur, according to City Manager Todd Wilkin’s report to village council at its meeting Tuesday.
Wilkin said a meeting he had this week with representatives of the Indiana & Ohio Railway (IORY), the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG), and the Ohio Rail Development Commission was positive.
Highland County Commissioner Jeff Duncan accompanied Wilkin to the meeting.
IORY, which operates the trains on Greenfield’s rail line, has provided a five-year capital improvement plan for the railroad that totals more than $4 million. The plan includes the replacement of more than 46,000 railroad ties.
The immediate need, Wilkin said, is to replace about 100 ties per mile to keep the railroad operating as a 10 mph rail. That cost is $182,000. Two critical bridges are set for repair next week at a cost of $38,000.
To transport hazardous materials on the line, which industry along the lines do, the rail spur must be ranked at a minimum of 10 mph.
Approximately 1,200 jobs (Adient, Candle-lite, and Huhtamaki) are supported by the rail spur.
So far, the village has applied for $825,000 in grant money to be invested in the rail. Following this week’s meeting with the above-mentioned agencies, Wilkin said the village agreed to apply for a Federal Rail Administration CRISI grant, which is a safety grant.
However, it is a 50/50 match grant, meaning the city would have to match any grant dollars it receives. Wilkin said the hope is that the village could use some or all of the grant money to match the federal dollars.
While a multi-million dollar improvement project on the rail line was completed a couple years ago, it was not refurbished as thoroughly as what was originally planned due to cost increases over the nearly four years it took from project funding to actually getting the project started.
The city manager has met with several agencies in recent months in a quest to ensure the viability of the railroad, a “vital piece of infrastructure for our region and the associated jobs that have been created and sustained within our local industries,” he said previously.
Wilkin said he will continue to update council as things developments occur.
In other business, Santec Consulting Services will be conducting a villagewide micro-monitoring study of the sanitary sewer system in the coming months. Wilkin said there are areas of significant water infiltration, and the study will help pinpoint those areas.
The study will not affect service.
Wilkin said he has been asked why lining the old sewer lines wouldn’t be beneficial. He said there are old sewer lines within the village that have benefited from being lined, but that will only help the infiltration problems if water is getting into the sewer from those lines. Lining won’t fix any problems with the “laterals,” he said, like pipes coming from homes. He said lining the old pipes isn’t out of the question, but the full scope of the infiltration issue needs to be understood before a plan to address the sewer issues can be developed and grant money sought.
He said if the water intrusion matter isn’t addressed, it could lead to the EPA demanding the village expand the wastewater treatment plant because of all the extra water that is getting treated. But Wilkin said the problem isn’t at the WWTP. The problem is in the sewer lines, and that is why the village is moving forward with the micro-monitoring study, an endeavor that was passed by resolution at Tuesday’s meeting.
Wilkin reported that the village recently met with an Ohio State University professor who will bring a group of students to Greenfield over the next several months. The students will complete a Capstone project regarding the development of the quarry into a destination attraction.
Destination attractions in Greenfield are a key component in the village’s economic development plan adopted last year.
The city manager said the students will likely plan things like marketing ideas and how to attract people to the spot from beyond the local area.
The Mill Street project is on schedule to begin within the next couple weeks. Wilkin said letters have already been sent to the residents who will be directly impacted while the work occurs. A preconstruction meeting is scheduled for this week. More information about what the public can expect will follow that meeting.
The scope of the project includes the improvement of the water and sewer infrastructure, new sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and creating an entrance to the industrial park at the end of Mill Street.
Fillmore Construction will be doing the nearly $900,000 project. Currently, all but $214,000 of that is being funded with grant money.
“We continue to work hard to reduce our financial burden” through seeking additional funding sources, Wilkin said.
Council chair Phil Clyburn said the village is pursuing multiple grants as it is “trying to tackle” ongoing issues and achieve long-term solutions.
“This all takes time,” he said, and money.
“We take this responsibility very seriously,” Clyburn said, adding that the more grant dollars that are won mean less of a financial burden on the citizens.
Wilkin discussed a recent round table meeting with Sen. Rob Portman where the workforce shortage facing the region was discussed. He said Portman will be introducing legislation aimed at helping individuals get the necessary training to be successful in the current working environment.
One of the stories shared at the meeting, Wilkin said, was that of a young woman wanting to become a welder. He prefaced the story by saying that the idea that a four-year college degree is necessary is quite prevalent. But a college degree isn’t always necessary as many available jobs require specialized certification or training for a particular field, rather than a pricey four-year degree.
The young woman that wanted to be a welder, Wilkin said, obtained her certification through Laurel Oaks, and when she graduated she had a welding job and was making $50,000 a year. Two years after graduating from high school, she is making $90,000 a year doing a job she loves, and she has no college debt.
It is a story and an idea, he said, that ought to be shared with students and parents.
An industrial round table is scheduled to be held next week with local industries. District 7 Workforce Development Director John Trott has been invited to speak to local industries about options available to them through his agency. Wilkin will provide council with feedback on the meeting.
On other matters, the village met with the local Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) about properties at 719 and 769 Spring St. The properties have gone through the receivership process, and 719 was quit claim deeded to the village and 769 was appointed to the CIC, which will act as the receiver and develop a plan to remove the nuisance from the community.
The CIC has asked that the village put out an RFP (request for proposals/pricing) for both properties, as well as a scope of work on the properties to see if there is interest in renovating them.
A local construction company has aided the CIC in developing a scope of work and provided preliminary construction numbers to renovate the 719 property.
Upcoming events in Greenfield include a communitywide yard sale on Sept. 13 and 14, and the annual Fall Clean-up Day on Sept. 27 from 9 a.m. to noon. For the latter, trash trucks will be available next to the railroad tracks on South Washington Street. Wilkin said things like doors, windows, furniture, carpet and scrap lumber will be accepted, but not batteries, paint cans, fluorescent lights or electronics.
Wilkin also reminded said the yard waste site is open the last Friday and Saturday of each month at the wastewater treatment facility located at 187 Lost Bridge Rd. Only compostable items are accepted. The service is free to all residents within the village.
Residents can now pay their water bills online through the village’s website. To review the options available, go to greenfieldohio.net. The information is located under the “Pay your utility bill online” banner.
Angela Shepherd is a correspondant for the village of Greenfield.