Greenfield just got some assistance in maintaining its railroad spur thanks to a recently awarded $250,000 grant.
City Manager Todd Wilkin reported at Tuesday’s council meeting that the grant is through the federal ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission).
The village administration has been aggressively seeking funding for needed repairs and improvements along the 29-mile rail line.
In recent weeks, the Indiana & Ohio Railway (IORY), which operates the trains on the rail line, provided a five-year capital improvement plan that totals more than $4 million. The plan includes the replacement of more than 46,000 railroad ties.
Wilkin said previously there is an immediate need to replace about 100 ties per mile to keep the railroad operating as a 10 mph rail, which is the minimum ranking allowed for the transport of hazardous materials. The cost to replace that minimum number of ties is $182,000.
Wilkin said the village will be applying for a Federal Railroad Assistance Grant with the help of the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC), which along with other agencies, will handle most of the grant writing and the “heavy lifting” of the process. The city manager is hopeful this grant will bring in about $2.2 million of needed infrastructure improvements to the railroad.
A multi-million dollar improvement project on the rail line was completed a couple years ago, but the railroad was not as thoroughly improved 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 Greenfield administration has met with several agencies in recent months in the pursuit 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,” Wilkin said previously.
Wilkin said Highland County commissioners Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton have thanked village officials for spearheading the efforts to keep the railroad running and helping ensure that the jobs supported by the Greenfield railroad stay in the region.
Approximately 1,200 jobs — at Adient, Candle-lite and Huhtamaki combined — are supported by the rail spur.
This week the village will be applying for a grant for storm sewer improvements on Fayette Street, what Wilkin referred to as step two in resolving the infrastructure issues in that part of town.
New curbs, gutters, and the installation of a new retention pond to help mitigate severe flooding in the area is slated for North Fifth Street to the Fayette Street intersection. That project was funded by grant money earlier this year and will likely commence in the spring.
The Mill Street project — which 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 — began last week.
Fred Cox, who is with Fillmore Construction, said the infrastructure he is encountering so far on Mill Street is “the worst infrastructure he has ever seen,” Wilkin reported. Even so, Wilkin said the project is progressing despite facing setbacks like discovering gas lines that were not identified, hitting gas lines not properly marked, and destroying water laterals that were not known to exist.
Additionally, the construction company plans to bring in additional crew to help ensure that the project is expedited and paving gets done next month before the weather makes that impossible.
On the matter of grants, so far the village administration has applied for more than $3.6 million and has been awarded more than $2.2 million, all of which is being invested in the community, Wilkin said.
The city manager spoke about comments that he has heard in regard to grants, like “all the administration works on is grants,” and that the administration “is nothing but an overpaid grant writer.”
“Grants take a lot of collaboration,” Wilkin said, but once the partnerships (like with ARC, ODOT, ODRC, APEG, etc…) are made, he said those grants don’t consume a lot of the administration’s time.
“I would like to address those comments,” Wilkin said, “and help everyone recognize grant writing could be a full-time job for any community. Unfortunately, we do not have the money to hire a full-time grant writer, and when you create the partnerships we have, most of the hard work is done by the partners, with leadership and guidance from the administration to ensure we are telling the Greenfield story.”
In his finance committee report, councilman Eric Borsini said committee members met with a local trash hauling provider recently in an effort to seek information on trash collection that could save residents money, and perhaps make it more affordable for everyone. He was quite clear that the committee is not pursuing change, but just collecting information. And he said that no change would come without the approval of the community.
The information seeking was started with a photo of a mattress on social media that was accompanied with a caption that read something to the effect of why proper disposal of such items isn’t more accessible. That prompted the committee to seek ideas from local trash collection companies for “a solution to the community waste problem,” Borsini said.
As the council meeting concluded, council chair Phil Clyburn expressed his thanks to administrators for their persistence in seeking the grant dollars for the various needed fixes, particularly the railroad, for their work in removing blighted properties and resolving the nuisance properties, and for recognizing that the “future of our community is a big deal, and the future of Highland County is a big deal.”
On another matter, a public meeting is set for Thursday, Oct. 10 for community input regarding the annexation of property near North Fifth Street that was previously purchased by the school. The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the council chambers.
Wilkin also took time to give thanks to the village employees for their work through “a crazy year” of water leaks, procedural changes, and the push on nuisance properties throughout the village.
Greenfield Village Council meets the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m in the council chambers on the first floor of the City Building.
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the village of Greenfield.