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Flushed With Cash

July 4, 2008

By Stacy Millberg, Star Beacon, Ashtabula, Ohio

Jul. 4–AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP — U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, R-Bainbridge Township, delivered a bit of good news to Austinburg Township residents Thursday afternoon.

LaTourette successfully included $700,000 in federal funds in one of the annual spending bills to help the township defer almost one-third of the cost of the $2.2 million sewer project.

LaTourette was able to secure the funding in the 2009 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill that was approved last week by the House Appropriations Committee. The measure was approved by voice vote, meaning no objections were made and no recorded vote was required. The bill now moves to the full House for consideration and then to the Senate, he said.

LaTourette told residents he has done his part and now residents and township officials need to do their part to ensure the money remains untouched. He gave them a “to-do list” of sorts and urged them to write letters to Sens, Sherrod Brown and George Voinovich to keep the funds protected.

The township is under orders from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to proceed with the project, which will construct sewer lines in the Route 307 and Route 45 area. The majority of the project costs will be borne by about 75 households and many are facing excessive assessments as well as $4,000 tap-in fees that can exceed the cost of a home.

The assessments can be spread over 20 years and payments and interest will show up on residents’ annual property taxes. LaTourette said assessments for some homeowners can exceed $70,000, while assessments for business or commercial properties could top $300,000.

LaTourette assured residents the funds are guaranteed; however, there is no guarantee as to when the funds will be available.

“I would like to have it done by Oct. 1,” he said. “The last time this happened in an election year, it was done in February.”

A few residents had some concerns about the project costs increasing with delays. LaTourette said the good thing about the funds are they are available every year so if the costs of the project increases, he can go back and secure additional funding next year.

In addition to the $700,000 LaTourette has secured, county officials have secured a $350,000 grant and $150,000 zero-interest loan from the Ohio Public Works Commission, leaving $1 million of the project unfunded. State and local leaders will also continue to look for additional funding at the state level. Several state and local officials also attended the meeting Thursday including state Sen. Capri Cafaro, state Rep. Deborah Newcomb, commissioners Peggy Carlo, Joe Moroski and Dan Claypool and Larry Meaney and Janice Switzer from the county’s Department of Environmental Services.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Star Beacon, Ashtabula, Ohio

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