Friday, October 26, 2001

Two projects dropped from sales tax funding

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Butler County commissioners removed from their list of sales tax-funded projects proposals to build a 40-mile bike path and to complete an Interstate 75 interchange at Michael A. Fox Highway and Cox Road.

        Commissioners Chuck Furmon and Courtney Combs on Thursday insisted on slashing the bike path from the list, despite Commissioner Mike Fox's objection.

        Mr. Fox said the bike path is the kind of recreational feature that would appeal to the mostly young, outdoors-oriented employees of high-tech businesses that the county is trying to attract.

        But Mr. Furmon and Mr. Combs said that other projects on the list — roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects — are more important than a bike path, which would have required $9.6 million in county funding.

        “As long as we can pursue state and federal grants for the bike path, I don't want to commit county money to it now,” Mr. Combs said.

        The commissioners are trying to determine what projects they will fund with revenues from the sales tax increase they plan to enact before the end of the year.

        The tax would increase a half-cent for six years and then drop a quarter-cent for four years. It would generate an estimated $129 million over 10 years.

        There are more than 30 projects that might be funded by the sales tax, but commissioners are expected to pare down the list and assign priorities over the next two weeks.

        Commissioners agreed that the Ohio 63 extension is the most important project on the list. The county would contribute $26.7 million to the effort to relieve traffic congestion in the Trenton-Monroe area.

        On the other hand, the I-75/Fox Highway interchange came off the list because it can be funded by tax increment financing, which utilizes property tax revenue from businesses benefiting from the project, commissioners said.

        At the city of Hamilton's request, commissioners added three projects: the Washington Boulevard extension over the Great Miami River to the Ohio 4 Bypass, a fiber-optics network in Hamilton, and the widening of Hamilton-Mason Road. A fourth project, the extension of Bobmeyer Road from the entrance of the Butler County Regional Airport to the Ohio 4 Bypass, was added Thursday.

        Mr. Furmon said it would improve airport access and the availability of land for industrial development.

        Still on the table are proposals for a countywide emergency communications system, to cost $8 million to $14 million, and the computerization of the county's voting system for $3 million.


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