Community Crossings grant could cover street work

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — Communities received notice for applying for state Community Crossings grants this week.

Through the grants, which are matching funds for road and bridge projects, the Indiana Department of Transportation pays for a percentage of the project, with the rest being covered locally.

One of the projects Huntingburg is looking to submit on its application this year is improvements that will soon be done on 14th Street from U.S. 231 to Chestnut Street. The city has taken bids for the project, which includes paving the street, replacing the waterline underneath the street and installing needed curbing and gutters.

The plan has been to use utility funds to complete the work, and then submit the project for Community Crossings funding in this round of applications.

Huntingburg wanted to complete the improvements before the new railroad overpass is finished this fall. When the overpass is open, 14th Street will likely see additional traffic, Huntingburg Street Superintendent Jason Stamm explained.

“Fourteenth Street wasn’t built for the kind of traffic that will come when the overpass is open,” he said.

This is the first time Huntingburg will submit a project that has been done or is already under construction before the money has been applied for and approved. But the Community Crossings program has allowed communities to do so in the past.

The project was almost put on hold after city officials were told by a state official last week that the program was not going to allow communities to apply for funding for projects a municipality had already done this time around.

That led to Mayor Denny Spinner contacting a number of people with the state, including State Reps. Shane Lindauer, R-Jasper, and Steve Bartels, R-Eckerty.

“They assured me that project could be submitted,” Spinner said.

This week’s correspondence from INDOT further assured him that the project did qualify for funding, Spinner said.

INDOT spokesman Scott Manning said the agency will accept projects that have already been completed in 2018 applications, just as in past years. But that will stop with the 2019 applications. Manning said he spoke with INDOT’s deputy commissioner and Community Crossings program manager, who confirmed that change will happen in 2019, not this year.

“For 2016, 2017 and 2018, we will allow retroactive awards,” he said. “In 2019, they won’t be eligible.”

The change is being made for 2019 applications after discussions with the Indiana State Board of Accounts, he said.

“They have asked us to be more stringent with this,” he said. “Their rule is when a community gets grant funding, it should be for projects not yet done. You may have a community that does a bid for the program that may include some things not eligible for Community Crossings (funding), like decorative lighting.

That future change will not affect Huntingburg’s submission practice, Spinner said.

“Historically, we wait until the project is funded (by the grant program) before moving on the project. So that won’t change,” he said. “The 14th Street project is the first one we are doing as a reimbursement project. It is being done in this manner because of the timing of the opening of the overpass.”

The overpass is expected to be substantially complete in September 2018 and totally complete in November 2018

County Highway Superintendent Steve Berg said that the 2019 changes will not affect the county’s application either.

“Any projects we submit are ones that have not been done yet,” he said. “It’s cleaner and simpler that way.”

Another change that will be implemented in 2019, Manning said, is that applications will be taken twice a year, in January and July, instead of once.

Manning said there must have been some misunderstanding in communicating the future changes. But it was not the intent of INDOT to implement the changes quickly.

“We wanted to give communities plenty of time to understand those changes,” he said.

Notice for 2018 applications went out to communities this week. According to the notice, eligible projects include road resurfacing, bridge rehabilitation, road reconstruction, and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance road projects; material costs for chip sealing and crack filling are also eligible. The projects are evaluated based on need, traffic volume, local support, the impact on connectivity and mobility within the community, and regional economic significance. The program is open to all government units in the state.

The match program will cover 75 percent of the project cost for approved projects coming from cities and towns with a population of less than 10,000 people and counties with a population of less than 50,000 people. Community Crossings will cover 50 percent of the project cost for cities and towns with a population that is more than 10,000 people and counties with a population more than 50,000 people.

Applications will start being accepted Monday, Aug. 6; the deadline for applications will be 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28.




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