If the proposed St. Rts. 66 & 2 and Co. Rd. 24 relocation project is stopped, will someone have to repay the Ohio Department of Transportation?
ODOT is providing $1.3 million in state and federal funds to conduct an engineering feasibility study of the proposed highway realignment, which calls for St. Rt. 66 to be rerouted along Co. Rd. 24 from the US20A intersection in the north to St. Rt. 6 in the south.
The village of Archbold has contributed more than $200,000 to the study.
But the project has met with significant opposition.
The German Township Trustees voted 2-1 during their May 23 meeting to withdraw their support of the proposed highway realignment.
Also, Tom VonDeylen, a Henry County commissioner, said he would not vote in favor of the project, and was “pretty confident they (the other two Henry County commissioners) would not vote for it (the highway realignment) either.”
Originally, a joint board made up of the Fulton and Henry county commissioners voted 5-1 to proceed with Phase I– the engineering feasibility study.
If the project fails to proceed, will ODOT require repayment?
An email from Theresa Pollick, an ODOT spokesman, says yes.
“If the village of Archbold decides not to go forward with the project, the village of Archbold will be responsible to pay back the amount of federal and state funds that have been spent on the project,” she said.
Dennis Howell, Archbold village administrator, said village officials “are aware of nothing in our present agreements that would require repayment.”
But after reviewing Pol- lick’s statement, he said, “The Village intends to fulfill its contractual obligations under the agreements with ODOT and the counties.”
The question was first brought up by Paul Barnaby, a Fulton County commissioner.
Barnaby said the commissioners have been “checking to see what penalties could land on our shoulders” if the county moves away from the project.
Jeff Rupp, a Fulton County commissioner, said if the project is stopped, Fulton County could be expected to repay whatever money was expended by the state; in other words, the $1.3 million.
Rupp said ODOT could penalize Fulton County further by looking unfavorably at future transportation projects involving the county.
Pollick said, “The project was initiated by the village of Archbold. If the village wants to move forward with the project we support them; if they want to not move forward with the project, we will support them.”
When Jeff Fryman, Archbold mayor, and Howell were originally asked about the fallout of the German Township withdrawal from the project, the two answered with “no comment.”
Following the Monday, June 6 Archbold Village Council meeting, Fryman said, “As of right now, we have a contract we are executing for Phase I” of the highway study.
Rupp said the commissioners received petitions circulated by the opposition to the highway relocation project.
As a result, the commissioners sent out 45 to 50 letters to Archbold business owners who had signed the petitions.
The letters ask the business owners to estimate the impact of the highway relocation on their businesses.
Rupp said the commissioners are trying to evaluate all of the factors of the project; the letters are part of that evaluation process.
“We would still love to hear from people,” Rupp said.