Infrastructure Funding Top Need in Southeast Ohio
According to a recent study conducted by Buckeye Hills Regional Council staff, over $60.5 million in infrastructure projects went unfunded this year as reported by member counties.
“One of the biggest challenges southeast Ohio residents experience is infrastructure – paved roadways, access to clean drinking water, updated and well-maintained sewer systems, broadband, the list goes on. Expensive, yes, but the return on investment for these improvements is directly tied to an increase in the quality of life for our people,” shared Bret Allphin, Development Director for Buckeye Hills.
The $60.5 million in needed infrastructure investment was shared amongst 55 different projects in all eight counties of the Buckeye Hills region. The most common project need, however, was surface transportation which represents projects improving or replacing streets, bridges, sidewalks, and any other transportation surface. According to the study, the county with the biggest surface transportation need reported was Perry County, with over $8.1 million in unfunded needs.
“Maintaining safe, accessible roadways is absolutely vital to the success and economic growth of our county,” shared Perry County Commissioner Ben Carpenter. “I’m proud of how much we’ve accomplished these past two years in partnership with Buckeye Hills and other regional agencies.”
The highest combined cost type of unfunded projects were water projects, including sewer improvements and expansions, waterline improvements, and water tank and water system additions. Other project types that went unfunded were drinking water additions, redevelopment, wastewater improvements, broadband access, stormwater systems, arts/culture projects, education, land acquisition, and public safety.
This effort was undertaken in an effort to be prepared for potential federal infrastructure programming regularly discussed by the Trump Administration and members of Congress.
“In 2009, when Governor Ted Strickland announced a $12.9 million commitment to the Recovery Act for water and sanitary sewer projects, we didn’t have a fully developed list of project needs in our member counties. Our staff scrambled to pull one together,” shared Allphin.
The Community & Economic Development Division at Buckeye Hills, now comprised of six staff, are increasingly focusing their efforts on data collection, mapping, and planning services.
“We are always thinking of what’s ahead for our region. Whether it’s working with City Councils to develop needs assessments, creating the regional transportation area plan, or helping our counties apply for much needed funding, our award-winning development team is working harder and harder each day to plan for our future,” shared Misty Crosby, Executive Director of Buckeye Hills Regional Council.
“With the help of BHRC, we’re moving closer to completing a data inventory for an asset management plan for our County water system,” shared County Commissioner Ben Carpenter.
Buckeye Hills staff ascertained that approximately 50% of the 57 municipalities in the 8-county region currently participate in existing funding programs offered by the regional council. The greatest challenge to increased participation in existing funding programs is the availability of matching funds for grant funded projects.