Rebecca Dangelo, a public information officer for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said the village of Archbold will not have to repay $1.3 million if it chooses to stop the St. Rt. 66 relocation project now.
“If the no-build option is determined to be the best course of action, no monies will need to be repaid,” she said.
In an article in last week’s edition of this newspaper, Jeff Fryman, mayor, said village officials would seek more grant money to finish the environmental impact portion of the engineering feasibility study project.
The feasibility study for the relocation of St. Rt. 66 onto Co. Rd. 24 was financed by a $1.3 million grant through ODOT TRAC, or Transportation Review Advisory Council.
The village itself paid over $200,000 toward the feasibility study.
Based on a contract with ODOT and other entities, Archbold is the lead agency for engineering on the project.
Fryman said village officials believe that if the environmental impact study is not completed, the village will have to repay the $1.3 million TRAC grant.
Fryman also said the engineering feasibility study contract with ODOT “is about the murkiest of deals I’ve ever had to deal with.”
“If the original funds were spent for the preliminary study, and that study determined the no-build option as the best option, then the process is complete,” Dangelo said in an email message to this newspaper.
“We have been clear with locals and the village of Archbold administration on this since the beginning.
“The decision is up to the Village and its residents, but ODOT does need to hear it from them,” Dangelo said.
The Archbold Buckeye received Dangelo’s email yesterday, Tuesday.
The email was forwarded to Fryman, who said it was the first time village representatives had received, in writing, any kind of indication that the village could stop the highway relocation study and not be responsible for repaying TRAC money.
In a telephone interview early Tuesday afternoon, Fryman said he met with Bob Seaman, village engineer; Dexter Krueger, assistant village engineer; and Donna Dettling, village administrator.
Fryman said during that meeting, he asked Seaman if he had ever received, in print or in an email, a statement from ODOT indicating Archbold would not have to repay the TRAC money if the no-build option is selected.
Fryman said Seaman told him he had verbal conversations with ODOT officials that indicated Archbold would not be required to repay the funds, but did not have anything in writing.
“I said, ‘Bob, are we off the hook?’” for the $1.3 million in TRAC grant money, Fryman said.
“He (Seaman) said, ‘I think so.’”
Lack Of Commitment
Fryman said originally, a contract for the feasibility study was written between ODOT, the joint board of commissioners of Fulton and Henry counties, and the village of Archbold, making Archbold the lead agency on the project.
But that contract was written so ambiguously, it was difficult– if not impossible– to determine who was responsible if the TRAC money needed to be repaid.
Fryman also said Seaman has been frustrated by ODOT.
Pointing to the reconstruction of US24 from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Toledo (“Fort to Port”), Fryman said ODOT was full speed ahead on that project, with confidence and determination.
But when it came to the St. Rt. 66 realignment project, Fryman said ODOT officials seemed to lack the same commitment.
Even with the Dangelo email in hand, Fryman said he was not sure he could risk having to repay $1.3 million on the statement of an ODOT public information officer.
“I’ve got an engineer who has been working in the field for 30 years,” Fryman said.
“I have Dexter (Krueger), who is right behind him. I trust the people we have, working for the village of Archbold over a PIO at (ODOT) District Two.”
The Buckeye attempted to verify with Dangelo whether her statement is official policy, but could not get an answer to that question at presstime.
Editor’s Note: Visit ArchboldBuckeye.com for further developments as they become available.