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Columbiana gets grant for storm water project

COLUMBIANA — After years of anticipation and hard work, City Manager Lance Willard announced at Tuesday’s city council meeting that the city received a grant for the West Salem Street storm water project.

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency, Department of Public Safety provided the city with the news that it would receive over $1.9 million for the project that is estimated to be a little over $2.2 million. Columbiana was already awarded about $143,000 from the Community Development Block Grant.

With all of the accumulated grant money, the city is left to owe just about 6 percent of the project.

“The city’s cost is 6 percent and that’s just fabulous,” Councilman Ted Souder said. “It’s huge that we’ve managed to do that without a storm water utility or anything else.”

While presenting the award letter, Willard said how helpful the Ohio EMA has been throughout the process. He said they have guided Columbiana through every step of the way and are very passionate about helping communities in the state.

“The Ohio EMA was able to get 75 percent of the grant from federal and they are kicking in 12.5 percent,” Willard said. “This is a huge deal, and I think we’re getting there.”

Willard also took the time to thank previous administrations for pursuing the project. He said it would not have been possible without the data that was collected. In 2009, council proposed a storm water study to be done and compiled a list of the areas that needed the most attention. South Main Street and about 1,100 feet on Fairfield Avenue have been completed since the original proposal, and West Salem Street was next on the list.

Howells and Baird, an engineering company in Salem, collected the data by performing the study and played a critical role in the grant application process, which involved making calculations that helped prove the project would be cost efficient. Storm water projects must be able to have a benefit cost ratio of at least 1, and this project’s ratio is 1.9.

“Had we tried to accomplish these projects without the grants, I think people would have left the city because of income tax,” Councilman Skip Liston said. “The amount of money that we have spent to better the city of the past few years is unbelievable. And the general population is just seeing the good parts of it.”

The city is also working for two more grants for similar projects. It has submitted a full application for the area consisting of Ray Avenue and Beverly Drive and has been invited to submit a full application for the Prospect Street/Y&S/Pittsburgh Street area.

Over the past six years, Columbiana has received over $20 million in grants. Mayor Bryan Blakeman pointed out that over that time, the city has received three dollars in grants for every one dollar in income tax.

“We have a city of 7,000 people, and the money is coming in three times that into the general fund,” Blakeman said. “We’ve been able to operate with the budget size of a city with over 20,000 people and accomplish the same thing with zero cost difference to the residents of the city.”

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