Casino tax money to go for bridges PDF Print E-mail
Written by ALEX ASPACHER, Sentinel Staff Writer   
Monday, 13 January 2014 11:14
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Commissioners voted unanimously last week to use about $300,000 in casino taxes to fund design of three bridge projects in Wood County.
The plan is a step toward using the county's share of taxes from gambling revenue to upgrade aging infrastructure.
One-third of the gross revenue of Ohio's four casinos is collected in taxes, with 51 percent of that money split between the state's 88 counties. Wood County has received more than $1.7 million from less than two years of casino revenues, which have exceeded $1 billion, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation.
Commissioners voted Thursday to provide the county engineer's office with up to $300,000 in design funding for three bridges, a critical aspect of county infrastructure. The engineer's office maintains about 440 bridges, with conditions and levels of travel that vary greatly.
The projects were discussed in the fall but not finalized. Commissioners asked for a list in July of up to 10 bridges Engineer Ray Huber would like to, but could not, design. In October, Huber indicated that having plans drawn in advance wouldn't necessarily speed up repairs if construction funding was not also available, as some of the projects weren't to receive construction money for several years.
Commissioners were initially under the impression that providing design money could free up other areas of the engineer's budget to potentially allow for construction of additional projects in 2014, said Andrew Kalmar, county administrator.
"The confusion I think came up, Ray, when you said that it wouldn't help get this bridge thing off the ground any sooner," said commissioner Jim Carter.
Huber and others from his staff clarified Thursday that while building money might not be available yet, having designs drafted may bring those funds in sooner from agencies such as the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments.
"Many times through TMACOG and the (Ohio Department of Transportation) program, if we have the plan in hand - 'I'm ready to go right now' - that could be moved, say, from the year of 2018 back to 2015, just to pick number out of the air," Huber said. "So having the plans on the shelf is absolutely an asset.
"TMACOG has got money in their coffers, and they're dying to give money away. They're encouraging agencies to come in ... 'Show us that you've got something and we'll move you up on the list.' Well, that's what this is all about, to try to get to that level."
Carter, who indicated he's served on TMACOG's transportation committee, agreed the schedule of construction funding can be shifted if a project lower on the list has plans ready in advance.
"You know and I know that if you have a job ready to go and someone else doesn't, that money gets shifted," he said. "By helping you get these bridges up and ready to go, if the timing is correct, you may wind up with some more money."
Commissioners agreed to fund the design of the first three bridges on the list of 10 and readdress the matter later this year.
"This windfall of casino tax money is something we didn't count on, but we will take it," Huber said. "We will design the bridges like you have indicated, and we will put them on a shelf. And as time goes by and we can get construction money available, then we can start rolling those into the fold."
Last Updated on Monday, 13 January 2014 11:16
 

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