Benefits of grants evident in city, county projectsSeptember 22, 2017
By CANDY NEAL
HUNTINGBURG — Mayor Denny Spinner stood on the side of Washington Street just north of Seventh Street Wednesday as cars and trucks zipped by on the new pavement.
He was showing State Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, and State Rep. Lloyd Arnold, R-Leavenworth, the street as an example of how additional funding the city received from the state, including Community Crossings money, has helped with road improvements.
“Since we improved 10th Street to the north here several years ago, this is seen as one of our major north-south streets in Huntingburg,” Spinner said. “You can see the repaving was part of it. But we also have new curb and gutter, and sidewalks. The walkability of this route has been tremendously improved.”
A few hours after the showing, communities learned how much money they were getting through the second round of the state’s Community Crossings program, which gives funding to towns, cities and counties for road and bridge improvements. In Dubois County, Jasper received $1 million, Huntingburg received $396,198, Ferdinand received $445,440, and Dubois County received $631,346.91.
Last year, communities also received Community Crossings funding as local option income tax funding the state had in its reserve. The Legislature decided in 2016 to give local units a one-time distribution and stipulated that 75 percent of it had to be used for infrastructure.
“This (Washington Street) project was made possible due to the fact that the Legislature did the distribution and set up the Community Crossings program,” Spinner told the legislators.
Street Superintendent Jason Stamm indicated that the work, which was done on Washington Street from Sixth Street to Church Avenue, was a challenge but the improvements were really needed. “The curb and gutter were very old,” he said. “We not only tore it out and put new in, we also changed the elevations in order to (help excess water) drain better. It’s a huge improvement over what we had.”
Both Messmer and Arnold were glad to be able to see how the funding has been used. Earlier this year, the legislators went out with Spinner to look at the improvements made on 11th Street.
Huntingburg used some of the $1 million it received from the Community Crossings program for work on Washington and 11th streets; the rest will be used for widening and paving a section of County Road 400 West.
Other communities also took advantage of last year’s Community Crossings money. Ferdinand’s 2016 grant of $362,219.25 was used for 18 projects. Last year, Dubois County received $476,306, which was used on six projects.
Had the county not received the state funding, the money for the six projects would have had to come from the county highway department’s budget or county funding, County Highway Superintendent Steve Berg said.
“This has been an extra helpful boost. We used to hound the council for money from EDIT (the economic development income tax fund) for roads and ask for money for needed equipment,” Berg said. “We’ve been able to scale that back, so that money can be left to help run the county.”
Also, Berg said, the road maintenance schedule has been boosted. “We are scaling up our maintenance procedures,” he said. “So the real winner will be the public. More roads and bridges can be improved.”
Jasper was planning to use the $1 million it received last year for downtown improvements, but returned the funding after its council put the project on hold. The city was awarded $1 million in this year’s round, which will cover about half the cost of the city’s road paving and pavement preservation list that workers have almost completed this year.
The Community Crossings program is designed to provide funding for at least 20 years, Messmer and Arnold said.
“If we keep operating as we are and keep being efficient and keeping a good balanced budget,” Arnold said, “we can distribute those funds properly for years.”
Voting to increase fees and fuel taxes for this funding was not an easy decision, Messmer said. “But it was the logical thing to do,” he said. “But the 10-to-15-year track record of continually declining fuel tax revenue, and that impacted local budgets and the state and INDOT’s budgets equally. The trajectory was on the steady decline without making the changes we did.
“The general fuel tax revenue that you’re going to see the increases on over the next few years will now help you catch up with 10, 15 years of making do with less,” added, “and help you take care of the high level of disrepair and letting things get to a high level of disrepair.”
2017 Community Crossings Grants
Dubois County: $631,346.91
Jasper: $1 million
Martin County: $670,000
Orange County: $477,961.88
French Lick: $670,000
Pike County: $566,318.06
Spencer County: $670,000
Santa Claus: $130,556.25
The full list of all counties, cities and towns in Indiana that received awards is on the Indiana Department of Transportation’s website, www.in.gov/indot/3665.htm.
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