County to salt away portion of casino tax

LISBON – Columbiana County commissioners are helping Engineer Bert Dawson with his plans to build storage barns for road salt.

Commissioners voted Wednesday to transfer $102,500 in casino tax revenue to Dawson to put that toward paying the $450,000 to $500,000 it is expected to cost to build storage barns at three separate locations.

The storage barns are to be built at the engineer’s main location in Lisbon and at satellite garages in Glenmoor in St. Clair Township and North Georgetown in Knox Township. Dawson borrowed $160,000 last year to acquire the additional parcels of land he needed in Glenmoor and North Georgetown to have enough room to build the barns.

Commissioners rarely provide money to the engineer’s office, which is a separate and completely self-funded county agency that operates almost exclusively on money generated by license plate fees and a portion of the state gasoline tax (46.4 cents per gallon unleaded, 52.4 cents for diesel).

Dawson said his gas tax revenue has taken a hit in recent years as people are driving less because of the economy and growing popularity of more fuel-efficient vehicles. According to the engineer’s office, gas tax revenue received by the county remained steady at $6.1 million between 2006 and 2008 before dropping to $5.9 million the following year, where it has remained ever since.

“It took a dip (with the recession) and stayed there, but our costs are still going up,” Dawson said.

This means the engineer’s office has less money for projects, which is why the

commissioners were approached to help with the salt barn project. Dawson decided to bid all three at once in the hopes of getting a better price than if he spread it over three years.

The $102,500 is coming from the $296,127 in state casino tax money commissioners received in April. This was the fourth such payment commissioners have received since Ohio’s first-ever casinos opened in 2012, bringing the county’s grand total to date to $826,523.

Commissioners have used casino tax money for miscellaneous capital improvement projects and projects, including helping pay the salaries of local police departments that assign an officer to the county Drug Task Force.