While officials of the village of Archbold said they didn’t know if they would have to repay the Ohio Department of Transportation, at least one person was able to get an answer.
Peggy Oyer, rural Defiance, has been the de facto head of the opposition to a plan to relocate St. Rt. 66 to Co. Rd. 24.
She received an email on April 25, 2016, from Jennifer Acuna, an ODOT engineer, that includes the following statement:
“Per my understanding, if the project is allowed to continue through the phase it was provided federal funding for, phase I, and an alternative is presented to the FHWA (the Federal Highway Administration), funds will not need to be returned to FHWA (emphasis added).”
The Ohio Department of Transportation funded a feasibility study for the project with $1.3 million in grant money from the Federal Highway Administration, administered through the ODOT Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC).
In an article in last week’s edition of this newspaper, Jeff Fryman, mayor, said village officials were unsure whether they had to complete an environmental impact study to avoid repaying TRAC the $1.3 million.
Fryman said a meeting was held with other village officials, Monday morning, Jan. 15.
At that meeting, Fryman said he was told village officials did not have, in writing, a clarification of the repayment question.
Fryman said in a Tuesday, Jan. 16 interview, if Archbold is required to repay the $1.3 million, it would stop capital improvement projects for a year.
Acuna’s email to Oyer indicates $1.3 million would not have to be repaid.
But Acuna said in the email… “if the project is allowed to continue through the phase it was provided federal funding for.”
Is an environmental impact statement part of “the phase it (the village) was provided federal funding for?”
In response to a question from Oyer, Acuna sent an email on June 14, 2016, with a copy to Donna Dettling, then-assistant village administrator (now village administrator).
That email stated, “If the project is allowed to complete the current phase, and it is determined that due to a valid reason (funding, logistics, environment, etc.) the preferred alternative is identified as a “no build” alternative, then the TRAC funding will not have to be paid back.”
Dettling responded, “Jennifer, this is worded perfectly, which finally makes the point that the Village will honor the TRAC funding requirements to the end, whatever end that might be.”
At the time, there was a question over who would have a vote to proceed with the project.
Acuna cleared that up in a June 15, 2016 email, stating that based on a contract signed by the Fulton-Henry County Joint Board of Commissioners, the joint board has “given (Archbold) Village Council the voting power to decide whether or not to proceed with the project.”
Council met on June 19, 2017, when it voted to table the project.
There was an email exchange on June 29, 2017, between Oyer and Michael Gramza, ODOT District Two (which includes Fulton County) planning and engineering administrator.
In an email from Gramza to Oyer, “If the no-build option is determined to be the best course of action, no monies will need to be repaid.
Fryman said in a Jan. 10, 2018, Archbold Buckeye article, that village officials wouldn’t push for the relocation of St. Rt. 66, but would seek additional funding to complete an environmental impact study.
The study was being done to avoid repaying the $1.3 million in ODOT-administered Federal Highway Administration money.
The same day, Bob Seaman, village engineer, sent an email to Gramza, asking if Archbold chooses the no-build option, “does this end the contractual obligations of the Village of Archbold? Council is concerned there may be a clawback (repayment) possibility from FHWA.”
Two days later, Jan. 12, Gramza told Oyer, Fryman, and Dettling, “ODOT has not changed any of the previously provided direction. We will respond to the City of Archbold to provide any further clarification they may need.”
The same day, this newspaper asked Gramza, “Can the village of Archbold, right now, vote the no-build option, without being required to repay the TRAC money?”
Rebecca Dangelo, public information officer for District Two, replied to the Buckeye on Tuesday, Jan. 16.
“If the no-build option is determined to be the best course of action, no monies will need to be repaid. The decision is up to the Village and its residents, but ODOT does need to hear it from them,” her email said.
The next day, Wednesday, Jan. 17, Gramza told Seaman in an email, “If the Village of Archbold selects the no build option, no further action is necessary. Please address by sending ODOT a letter, stating such.”
Dangelo told the Buckeye the same day, “ODOT responded to the additional questions this morning, as we continue our partnership with the village in this matter.”
In an email sent after business hours on Friday, Jan. 19, the Buckeye asked Fryman and Dettling for comment for this article.
Dettling said Monday, Jan. 22, “We are coordinating a comment from the village. I should have something out to you by the end of the day.”
In a follow-up email on Tuesday, Jan. 23, Dettling said she was still working with Fryman to finalize the statement.
At 1:55 pm, yesterday, Tuesday, this newspaper had not received the statement.