BY Tom Stephens For The Examiner
The DeGraff Village Council conducted a lengthy special meeting Tuesday evening, March 14, which covered two subjects, the first being the village’s application for a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Logan County Commissioners, while the second concerned an additional 0.5 percent income tax levy that will appear on DeGraff residents’ ballots in May.
DeGraff residents and those non-residents who work in the village currently pay a 1 percent income tax.
The meeting opened with a presentation by Hannah Diewald from CDC of Ohio, who is working with the village and the Logan County Commission on the CDBG. By law, such grants must be split into at least four different projects and Diewald is collecting surveys that have been sent to all of the households in the village to determine which projects/updates should be considered.
While no final decision has been made as to which four (or more) projects will be considered, Diewald said that sewer line updates, water main work and new/updated sidewalks were three of the top responses on the surveys that have been returned.
Also included were suggestions for a new water plant well, upgrades to specific sewer lines throughout the village and repaving the walking track, as well as the parking lot, of the DeGraff Village Park.
Diewald said that she has reviewed over 40 of the surveys and will continue to use these surveys as her primary roadmap for the grant application, reporting to the council and the dozen or so visitors at Tuesday’s meeting that the process of selecting projects for the grant is ongoing and subject to change, again based on the feedback she receives.
Village Administrator Ken McAlexander concurred, referring to the handout that was made available to the council and visitors regarding what updates are currently being considered. McAlexander said “None of this is set in stone,” but went on to say that upgrades to the village’s infrastructure will be a primary focus of the grant proposal.
As the grant proposal process is ongoing, Diewald should have a clearer picture on what will be included in the CDBG application in May, at which time she will present her recommendations to the council.
The application will will then be submitted to the Logan County Commission in June.
After Diewald’s presentation, the last hour and 30 minutes of Tuesday’s meeting was consumed by discussion of the 0.5 percent income tax levy that will appear on DeGraff ballots in May.
Those in attendance were told by Mayor Stephanie Orsborne under the current funding, the DeGraff Fire Department will run out of money within two years.
Should the levy pass, the village expects to use much of the 0.5 percent increase in income tax collections to build a new fire station along north Main Street/County Road 24 on land that will be donated by the Riverside Local School District.
The current fire station, Mayor Orsborne continued, is located the downtown section of the village on south Main Street and was constructed over 100 years ago.
As it sits, the fire station is unable to house new, larger fire engines and tankers, both of which the village is actively seeking grants. Extensive renovations to the current fire station, Mayor Orsborne said, would cost more than the construction of a new building, given that the updates would include making the current fire station ADA and code compliant.
At the suggestion of Logan County Auditor Jack Reser, the village council elected to go with an income tax increase, rather than a proposed property tax bump, for the new building.
This prompted a long back and forth between the council and the visitors, with several other suggestions being floated, suggestions which again included the renovations to the current building, creating a Fire District with one or more of the surrounding townships that are served by the DeGraff Fire Department, or an increase in payments to the DFD from the townships served.
While the Council agreed that some of the proposals made Tuesday were worth looking into, Mayor Orsborne said that for now, as the levy has already been slated to appear on the May ballot, the question is moot.
Should the levy pass, most of the funds raised would go toward a new fire station, while should the levy fail, other options for funding the DFD will have to be considered.
As Tuesday’s special meeting of the council was called to address just these two items, exchange of views on other matters, such as Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provided by the village, were not discussed.
The DeGraff Village Council is scheduled to meet again in regular session at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 21.