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Belmont budgetary concerns discussed

BELMONT — Village officials recently discussed budgetary concerns after bids for a planned road paving project came in significantly higher than anticipated.

Mayor Ron Woods explained the situation at a council meeting held July 1, saying that the low bid for a road project being funded with grant assistance from the Ohio Public Works Commission was $16,000 over the amount budgeted. Woods and Council President Mike Murphy went on to explain that the village would have to take the $16,000 from the general fund to cover the shortfall and that no extra funds would be available to cover any contingencies that will likely arise as the work gets underway later this year.

“We have a very, very, narrow margin. I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” said Woods.

Councilwoman Lorie Grob said the village had banked the matching funds required by the grant process over the past couple years.

Village officials had been working toward securing an OPWC grant in order to pave a number of the village’s worst streets since 2018. They learned early in 2020 that the grant had been awarded. Progress toward actual construction was delayed, however, as funding was delayed because of the COVID-19 outbreak and other extenuating circumstances.

After a brief discussion, council voted to accept the bid and allocate $16,000 from the general fund to cover the shortfall. It was decided to hold a finance committee meeting sometime before the next council meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 5.

Belmont County Land Reutilization Corp. Director Kathy Kelich was at the July meeting to give an update on efforts to secure funding to demolish the old Belmont School building.

“We are still pursuing the EPA grant and will be applying for that this fall. We have talked to consultants Mannik and Smith about aiding us in the application for the grant. They have been very successful in securing similar grants in the past for other agencies so we’re confident they’ll be able to help us along with that,” Kelich said.

Kelich went on to say that some land banks had asked that some of the federal American Rescue Plan funding be allocated for their use, but that effort had been unsuccessful so far.

She also noted that the recently passed state budget included $350 million for Brownfield remediation and another $150 million for revitalization, and that this would potentially be faster than waiting for the grant, but they still would not know how those funds were being distributed until next month.

Kelich concluded that having multiple avenues to pursue for the funding was a positive thing and they would go ahead and apply for the grant while they waited to see whether the state funds were available to them.

Fire Chief Bob Mills said the department had received 10 new sets of turnout gear purchased with $37,500 of Coronavirus Aide, Relief and Economic Security Act funds and discussed with council the need to increase the pay rate of paramedics in the village to remain competitive with other departments.

Mills also informed council that the owner of 405 Gordon St. had expressed interest in surrendering the property to the village, and Village Solicitor T.J. Schultz said he would do the title research to make sure there were no liens or other issues with the property.

Council also discussed possible solutions to stormwater runoff from Brown Street that is damaging the property of Koel Davia.

Council approved Police Chief Andrew Miller’s request to move Officer Tim Skinner from his auxiliary position to part-time paid status, with Miller noting that it would not cost the village any more in wages since he would be reallocating hours and not adding any more paid shifts.

Miller also said officers would soon begin citing residents for expired vehicle tags again and expressed his appreciation to the Bethesda Police Department for their recent assistance.

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