The Highland County Board of Commissioners heard requests for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds at its weekly Wednesday morning meeting.
Nicole Oberrecht, the ARPA project head, said the money was originally designated for four specific categories, but the U.S. Treasury Department ruled that counties could apply for up to $10 million of revenue loss. She said that opened the project to more applicants. She said if it conforms to meeting a government service, it’s a project that could be funded using the available money.
However, Oberrecht also said this project isn’t one where the prospective requesters are handed a check and that’s it. She said they will need to enter into agreements like sub-recipient agreements, and there would be monitoring and uniform guidance in place.
County commissioner Dave Daniels said the ARPA funds must be used by the end of 2026 and encumbered by the end of 2024. The board of commissioners also reminded applicants that the total funds received for the county was $8.3 million and the total requests equaled somewhere around $13 million, so they wouldn’t be able to fund everything.
Prior to the requests, Oberrecht said two of the projects were not presented because the commissioners already approved them. One was for the meal program for the Highland County Senior Citizen’s Center and another for more mobile hot spots at the Highland County District Library.
Mechell Frost, executive director of the senior center, said it received $10,000 to help the program.
The requests heard by the commissioners include:
* Ohio Means Jobs relocation and a childcare center by Highland County Community Action Organization (HCCAO) – Julia Wise, the executive director, said the organization put together two proposals for its funding.
The first proposal would be a relocation of Ohio Means Jobs into a space behind HCCAO within the North High Business Center that would be purchased. The requested funds totaled $393,750. Christi Hauke, director of emergency services, said the project would create a one-stop shop in the building for people to access and help those in the Hi-TEC Center as well.
The second proposal would be to purchase space inside the North High Business Center to operate a childcare center. The requested funds totaled $6,250.
Wise said the project would not be possible without the funding due to the organization’s inability to use its funds to purchase the space. She also said they’d be able to be ready within three to six months and the project would at least be completed by 2023.
* Placement costs by Highland County Children Services (HCJFS) – Jeremy Ratcliff, HCJFS director, said that this is a need. He said the need for placement costs hasn’t gone away but instead has increased. The requested funds totaled $550,000. He said 100 percent of the money would go toward placement costs and that the one-time investment from the ARPA money would get the organization over $1 million in expanded buying power thanks to the reimbursement process.
* Continuation of EMS and fire services by Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District – David Manning, fire chief, said the department has had an upswing in cost for services and supplies as well as a downswing “horribly” in available staffing. The requested funds totaled $462,523. He said this funding would “predominantly” help with payroll.
* Livestock facility by the Highland County Agricultural Society (HCAG) – Mark Baldwin, president of HCAG, said the organization is looking to build a steel livestock holding facility, measured at 125 feet by 225 feet by 14 feet, for the Junior Fair exhibitors at the Highland County Fairgrounds and would replace three outdated buildings. The requested funds totaled $825,000. Baldwin said they already started the bidding process for this project and were looking at about eight to 10 months before they would need the money. He said if they get close to their portion, they will talk about fundraising, but if they don’t get close, they’d need to discuss again what to do next.
* Southeastern expansion by the Highland County Water Company – Dan Cutler, general manager of the company, said the southern part of the system was probably the first one developed. The requested funds totaled $2 million. He said the sizing of the line isn’t adequate for the population it now serves. Cutler said when there are no issues, it’s fine, but if there’s even a small crack, it might take them a while to find it, people could be out of water, and that’s not good.
Patrick Karnes, engineer at the water company, said the way the company is looking at fixing the problem is by creating redundancies in the system. He said the current system operates linearly by pushing out water to a customer, but there isn’t any backup or bypass route around that. He said the project would create a second option for getting water into the community.
He said this part would be phase one of the project and there would be a second and third phase. Karnes said those parts would be to augment storage in the southeastern area of the county. He also said the project would be more of an upsizing than a complete replacement, but there would be some new additions to the line.
Cutler said his opinion was that the project would happen “regardless,” so a partial amount of money would help. Karnes said the company was in the planning stages of the project and is in the process of refining it. He said it was looking to finish the planning of the first phase around September and then move on to design.
* County truck barn by the Highland County Engineer’s Office – Christopher Fauber, Highland County engineer, said he feels his request is a little different compared to others because the department is trying to recoup lost revenue that they feel the pandemic cost them. The requested funds totaled $1.44 million. Fauber said the trucks keep getting bigger and harder to fit into their current truck barn. He said they’d like to build one like the Ohio Department of Transportation barn next door. He said the total project cost was $1.8 million and they were asking for 80 percent of that, with the difference coming from the engineer’s budget.
Fauber said the project moving forward would depend on how much was received from the ARPA funds. He said he thought they could do a little bit, but that everything is going up in price.
* Roberts Lane development by the city of Hillsboro – Justin Harsha, Hillsboro mayor, said the city has talked multiple times about this project with the commissioners, but something that has changed is they were working on a purchase contract for about 69 acres around Roberts Lane. Harsha said the city was putting the ARPA money it received into this project as well for the infrastructure. The requested funds totaled $3,160,152.
Representatives from the city said this project includes the roadway extension, storm sewer controls and water and sewer services.
Harsha said “the bottom line” is that the city is running out of commercial space, there’s a lot of interest in Hillsboro and they need that space to be able to add places and draw people into the area. He said some parts of the property were wetlands, creeks and things like that. He also said the city wants to be a little different than just building a commercial development and wants to incorporate some walking trails and aspects like businesses that might locate inthe project area.
Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott said the city was looking at any outside funding possible, including ODOT, to contribute to the project.
* Greenfield Downtown Facade Improvement Program (DFIP) for small business owners by the village of Greenfield – Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin said the village developed the DFIP to help businesses struggling through COVID-19 and coming out of the pandemic. The requested funds totaled $550,000.
Wilkin said he met with multiple entities about using their funding as well to help fund the project cost, which overall totaled $1.2 million for all their applicants, and that Madison Township agreed to put in $180,000 of its ARPA money after it finishes its project.
Wilkin said this program can be treated as a 50 percent loan and a 50 percent grant for the applicants. He said it pays for new historically approved windows, painting the buildings with non-lead-based paint, putting HVAC systems into buildings that need them and a new roof. Wilkin said the program helps each building stay open.
Wilkin said this program also creates a Revolving Loan Fund where the loans allow the village to invest in future businesses that want to come to Greenfield.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.