Saturday, July 07, 2001

Butler cancels projects fund

Smaller communities used it for roads, other improvements

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — During the past three years, Butler County's villages and smaller townships have used $2.6 million from a county community services fund for a variety of projects.

        Those range from the resurfacing of streets and the replacement of culverts to a firehouse addition and installation of water pipes. St. Clair Township even used it to get rid of a mosquito problem.

        But the county commissioners have decided to eliminate that fund next year so they can finance the operation of the new county jail, scheduled to open in April.

        Villages and the smaller townships had grown to depend on this fund. Now they will have to find alternative sources.

        Seven Mile had hoped to use that money to develop a communi ty park on 3.5 acres the village recently bought. But the village will have to pursue grants and other funding sources, Mayor Mike Day said.

        “It was nice that those funds were available for a community like Seven Mile,” Mr. Day said. “Our funds are limited. We do count on that county money to a degree to make ends meet.”

        “I think it's terrible that they're doing away with that fund,” Somerville Councilwoman Beverly Wyatt said. “I hate to see it stopped,”

        Commissioner Courtney Combs said the county had little choice.

        The new jail is expected to add $1.2 million to $1.6 million to the county's 2002 expenses.

        The community services fund grew out of a $1 million annual bridge replacement fund that the commissioners allocated to the engineer's office from 1995 to 1999.

        In 1999, they switched it to a community services fund to help the villages and smaller townships.

        But with the expense of a new jail, commissioners decided they could no longer afford the community services fund.

        “The fund was $1 million the first two years, and we dropped it to $600,000 this year,” Mr. Combs said. “So they were forewarned there would be cuts in that program. But I'm not too sure they knew it would go to zero.”

        Most township and village officials said they will miss the fund, but understand why the county needs to eliminate it.

        “The jail has been a great necessity for many years,” Mr. Day said. “Our community will benefit from it.”

        The fund allowed communities to tackle projects their small annual budgets never could have financed.

        Reily Township received $137,000 in 1999 for an addition to the township firehouse. The township has an annual budget of about $400,000.

        This year, Reily Township received $100,000 to buy a life squad ambulance. “We normally wouldn't have the extra funds to do all this,” Township Trustee Dennis Conrad Jr. said. “The county fund made a difference for us.”

        He said Reily Township would continue to apply for state and federal grants.

        The county allocated $154,900 to Morgan Township in 1999 to build a township building and $68,800 this year to clean out a plugged ditch that caused flooding on Ohio 126 in the Shandon area.


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