BY SHERI TRUSTY
Port Clinton’s Forward Looking Infrastructure Project (FLIP) is finally getting back on track after months of delays that were mostly due to a lack of funding, and the the city will now take steps on long-awaited water, sewer and road improvements.
“Anything good that happens with this project is due to funding, and any delays that happen are due to funding,” said Gregory Telecky, Client Account Manager for Kleinfelder, formerly known as Poggemeyer Design Group. “The infrastructure in this town is 80 years old. Funding made this project possible, but it impacts the progress.”
FLIP’s Project A addresses above ground and road resurfacing issues. Project B addresses below ground issues of water and sewer improvements. A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development umbrella grant and loan package is providing funding toward both projects, but the funding was placed on hold while the USDA reviewed the project plans.
The package provides $9.7 million in loan support for Project A and $18 million in loan and grant support for Project B. Included in the $18 million is a $3.8 million grant for water improvements and a $6.3 million grant for sewer improvements.
Although the USDA approved Project B funding in the spring, the city just recently received approval for a Project A loan. Mayor Mike Snider said the city hopes to begin taking bids at the end of the year, and work can possibly begin in early 2024.
Once started, the project is estimated to take between 18 and 24 months to finish.
In addition to water and sewer improvements, every street in the city that had not been recently resurfaced will be repaved.
“The pavement portion will start on the west end and work its way east to Project B (construction) in the center of town. Once the pavement goes over that work, resurfacing will continue on,” Snider said.
Washington, 4th and 7th streets will be completely rebuilt, and the project will address the confusing five-point intersection at Monroe and Perry streets. Snider said engineers did a traffic flow study and will reconfigure the intersection to increase safety.
COVID obstacles, including pandemic-related high interest rates and rising construction costs, also impacted the project’s schedule, but funding had the greatest effect on delays.
“We were at the mercy of our largest external funder. The Lynch pin is that all the subprojects had to wait, too,” said City Auditor Gabe Below.
In the meantime, Below and the Kleinfelder staff continued to seek additional funding sources. The funding search was aided by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and Senator Sherrod Brown, and the grant-seeking process was buoyed by an equivalent dwelling unit surcharge that was added to city utility bills.
“When citizens agreed to take the monthly surcharge, that energized our ability to get grants. The citizens are paying for this, too, so that became a strong point in the city getting grants,” Telecky said. “The citizens did their part in making this project a reality. We pulled all the people around the table to make this happen.”
In the end, the team around the table secured the following grants for water, sewer and/or revetment improvements, in addition to those provided by the USDA package: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, $2 million; U.S. EPA, $3.4 million; Ohio Public Works Commission, $325,000; Ohio Department of Transportation, $2.5 million; and Ohio EPA, $750,000.
Telecky said he appreciates the collaboration of city entities that began at the inception of the project.
“To the mayor’s credit, from the first 30 minutes we talked, he was in, and he never wavered,” Telecky said. “The leadership of the city has been all on board. There’s been great cooperation. In the middle of all this, that’s the very positive story to tell.”