Friday, July 27, 2001

Projects with matching funds have better shot at Clean Ohio grants

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The more money a community has to create a bike trail or clean up a polluted factory, the more likely it is to receive new state money for such projects, state officials said.

        Cities, villages, counties and park districts across the state are lining up to spend a portion of the state's $400 million Clean Ohio Fund.

        On Thursday, Gov. Bob Taft signed a bill into law that implements the fund, one of Mr. Taft's top priorities as governor.

        The law allows the state to borrow $200 million for cleaning up polluted industrial sites and $200 million for preserving fields, farmland, streams and other green spaces.

        In practice, communities with more matching money are likely to receive a higher priority, said Larry Bicking, director of the Ohio Public Works Commission.

        “We anticipate that demand is going to far exceed the availability of funds on the green side,” Mr. Bicking said. As a result, the local councils “will probably give higher priority to a project that comes in with greater local match than the maximum.”

        Although normal public works' projects require at least 10 percent in local money, most involve at least 50 percent, Mr. Bicking said.

        Nineteen local committees will have the final say on brownfield projects, but in practice Mr. Bicking is probably right, said John Magill, of the state Office of Urban Development.

        “If you're looking to stretch limited resources, additional dollars make those resources go further,” Mr. Magill said.

        To be eligible for funding, communities must provide 25 percent of the money for a project.

        Jack Shaner, of the Ohio Environmental Council, said it is a “tough reality” that in the first round of projects, communities with more local money will probably fare better.

        “The more able you are, the more you can help yourself, the more you can bring to the table, the more you'll shoot up the list of would-be candidates,” Mr. Shaner said.

        Mr. Taft said that while $400 million sounds like a lot of money, it will be stretched thin in a state of 11 million people.


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