Unused bridge gets $500k federal grant

Published: Sunday, August 19, 2012 @ 11:00 AM
Updated: Sunday, August 19, 2012 @ 11:00 AM

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded Greene County a $520,000 federal grant to restore a historic covered bridge that is closed to traffic and carries few pedestrians in a lightly-traveled area of Xenia Twp.

All told, the Stevenson Road Covered Bridge will cost $650,000 to restore, according to engineering estimates, with the county kicking in the last $130,000. The bridge sits alongside Stevenson Road, connecting grassy areas on either side of Massie’s Creek, and is not attached to a park, bike/walk path or other attraction.

Ohio has more than 100 remaining covered bridges, five in Greene County, and many historical groups support preserving them.

“Covered bridges are pretty rare everywhere now,” said Catherine Wilson, director of the Greene County Historical Society. “A lot of tourists visit them.”

But Xenia Twp. trustee Jim Reed, who was not involved in the county’s grant application, is upset about federal priorities, given that spending on a nonfunctional bridge will cost more than Xenia Twp.’s entire annual roads budget of $610,000.

“Those grants should be coming down for the basics – repairing aging water lines, sewer lines, roads,” Reed said. “These projects, because they’re somebody’s pet project, those are getting priority, and it makes absolutely no sense.”

Greene County is not the only jurisdiction to get one of these grants. The National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program approved 22 of the 28 applications submitted for 2012, and will dole out $9.76 million. Miami County will receive an $80,000 grant for work on the Eldean Bridge in Troy, which carries some traffic and is adjacent to a recreational trail and park complex.

In the past seven years, the program has approved $62.2 million for more than 150 covered bridges nationwide, some that are still used by vehicles, some that are not.

Greene County engineer Bob Geyer said bridge expert John Smolen of Smolen Engineering sent in the grant application with his approval after load-testing the bridge. Geyer said he’s seen the $520,000 grant award listed on a government website, but said he hasn’t been officially notified.

“This is money set aside in a transportation bill by senators and congressmen, and if I didn’t get it, someone else would,” Geyer said. “This is all coming out of federal gas tax money that you pay at the pump every time you put a gallon of gas in your car.”

Brad Bieghler, who helped found the Tea Party-affiliated Beavercreek Liberty Group, doesn’t believe that’s a good reason.

“Our nation is $15 or 16 trillion in debt,” he said. “Just because somebody says, well gee, the money’s there, they’re giving the money away anyway, so let’s take advantage of it … that’s got to stop.”

Smolen called covered bridges “a piece of Americana.” In addition to sending in the Stevenson Road application, his company has bid on multiple projects in Greene County and designed the new covered bridge in Hueston Woods State Park in Preble County. Geyer said any contracts to work on the Stevenson bridge would come as the result of a competitive bid process.

The Stevenson Road Covered Bridge was built over Massie’s Creek in 1877. Wilson said it is Greene County’s last remaining bridge built by the famed Smith Bridge Company of Tipp City.

The Ohio Department of Transportation website calls historic bridges “a cultural resource as well as a work of art.” Nancy Campbell of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office said the Stevenson Bridge is not one of the state’s rare, highest priority bridges, but it is eligible for consideration for the National Register of Historic Places.

The bridge carried traffic until 2003, but was a problem for emergency vehicles, which had to detour around it. That year, the county built a $650,000 modern concrete bridge 100 feet downstream and moved Stevenson Road there, stranding the old bridge.

On a recent visit to the bridge, No Trespassing signs warned people away from the east entrance. The interior of the bridge was covered in graffiti, some of it sexually and racially profane, and beer bottles were strewn around one side.

Dorothy Pitzer, who has lived just uphill from the bridge for 40 years, said she misses driving through the bridge, but rarely sees much activity there now, either from tour groups or people causing trouble.

She likes the history of it, but was surprised that the restoration plan would replace almost all of the bridge — the floor system, roof and siding.

“I don’t know why they would do that, because nobody uses it,” Pitzer said. “It just sits over by itself. … I guess I can see both sides (of the issue).”

Because it doesn’t connect to anything, the Stevenson Road bridge reminds some of the “bridge to nowhere” — a 2005 proposal in Alaska that would have spent millions to connect two towns with tiny populations. That project was canceled amid public outcry.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sent out a press release when the grant was approved this month, calling the bridge, “an important historical landmark to the community.” But a spokesman for Brown said the senator wasn’t involved in the process, saying his office was notified after the grant was approved.

Reed, a township trustee, understands that this Department of Transportation money is earmarked specifically for this type of project, but he hopes that will change.

“There are roads – not county roads, but local roads in nearby jurisdictions — that are so rough, you need four-wheel drive to get to people’s homes,” he said. “You can’t tell me that day-to-day travel projects aren’t more important than other frivolous projects.”

Geyer said the county will continue to work on its five covered bridges. Only the Ballard Road bridge is currently open to traffic, and it’s at the bottom of a dead-end road. He said funding has been in place to fix the Engle Mill Road Bridge for years, and he hopes to get that project out to bid in 2012.

The county and the Ohio Public Works Commission will split the $700,000 cost of replacing the Charleton Mill Covered Bridge, which closed last year. Geyer said that one was “too far gone” to rehab, but he’s going to put in a new wood truss capable of carrying legal load limits, while maintaining the look of an old covered bridge from the outside.

“I’d like to get all of the old covered bridges rehabilitated so they’re here for future generations,” Geyer said. “It’s history.”

The second National Covered Bridge Conference will be held in Dayton in June 2013.

Warren County arts community vote settles zoning case

Published: Saturday, June 24, 2017 @ 8:00 AM


            Ramesh Malhotra in 2011 in Mason, where his property management business is located. He wants to develop an arts community near Lebanon. FILE
            Samantha Grier

When Warren County commissioners approved rezoning 20 acres for a proposed arts community, they also ended a zoning violation case.

On Tuesday, commissioners approved rezoning of Theatre 42 property at 2752 U.S. 42 in Union Twp. for a planned development by Ramesh Malhotra, an entrepreneur also involved in redevelopment of two sites in Franklin as centers for spirituality and the arts.

“I’m neither an artist or a singer or an actor. I try to help the artist,” Malhotra said in a telephone interview after the rezoning.

Malhotra described himself as a “spiritual capitalist.”

MORE: Malhotra redeveloping Catholic church in Franklin

The arts community plan was developed after the property was cited for a code violation after property was changed from the Living Tree Community Church to a theater used by the Mason Community Players, Zoning Inspector Mike Yetter said Tuesday.

Churches are permitted in residentially zoned areas, but not community theaters.

Malhotra is planning to open Ever One Performing Art Theaters in a developing corridor on U.S. 42 between Mason and Lebanon.

He already has the Malhotra Collection of Spiritual Art on display at a museum developed in an old home along the Great Miami River and multi-use trail at 318 River St. in Franklin. Malhotra said he has begun opening the museum on Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as on weekends, for visitors from around the world and as interest grows.

MORE: Malhotra redeveloping Catholic church in Franklin

Before working on the theater plan, Malhotra said he plans to convert the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Franklin to the Oneness Harmony Center. Malhotra plans to seek donations and fees for musical and spoken-word presentations “to raise the individual spirit through meditation.”

The Harmony Center is expected to open in August in time to capitalize on visitors in Franklin for Downtown Saturday Nite, a local auto show held for more than 30 years. Malhotra looks for some of the show’s audience to also stop by the art museum.

In September or October, work is to begin on remodeling of the old Theatre 42 building, where the Mason Community Players (MCP) have been staging shows since 2015, before Malhotra took over a land contract for the property from Mason Mayor Victor Kidd.

MORE: Spiritual art museum opens in Franklin

“We are a part of the plan with the owner of the property,” Laureen Catlin, an MCP board member, said via email.

Their production of The Wiz is to open on July 14, and the group is soliciting donations to help make rent and subsidize improvements to the building.

“When you lease a space, there are rent and utilities to be paid,” the group said on its website. “And MCP tries to improve Theatre 42 as much as possible in order to make it more and more comfortable and accommodating to its performers, technicians and staff, and most importantly, for its audiences.”

Malhotra also plans to build a second building in anticipation of another group, such as a children’s theater group, moving to the center.

MORE: Mayor says new company fits city’s “strong culture of wellness and entrepreneurship”

Ultimately, plans show as many as six buildings, including a 27,900 square foot theater, on the property, which lacks sewers and much of which is in a flood plain.

“We appreciate your vision,” Commissioner Dave Young said before the unanimous vote to rezone the property from residential use to allow the planned-unit development in a neighborhood commercial business zone.

The land is owned Evan Ford but is under a land contract previously held by Kidd and the church and taken on by Malhotra, property records show.

At the meeting, Malhotra, based in Mason, said he would lease the buildings to groups and planned to open a music school in the existing building. He said the zoning violation complaint was made after the property passed from Kidd to him in 2016, although the theater had been operating in the former church building since 2015.

Commissioner Tom Grossmann quizzed Malhotra about the property’s ownership.

Grossmann lives in Mason and served on the city council and as mayor before his election as a county commissioner.

“I think it’s a great use,” he said. “I sure hope it works.”

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Malhotra, a coal broker and head of the Malhotra Group, based in Mason, said the projects fit his model for developing charitable businesses.

“I was given a gift to build businesses,” he said. “I have made enough money. I don’t really need more.”

Kidd said he sold the contract to Malhotra when his church mission changed and they no longer needed the property.

The development plan for the arts community still has to be reviewed by the commissioners.

“You’ll get to see it again,” Yetter said. “Ultimately, the commissioners will have the final say.”

CONTINUING COVERAGE

We are committed to coverage of issues of importance to Warren County, including recent stories about residents who fought a septic business and potential medical marijuana cultivation sites.

Businesses may face penalties for prohibiting guns in private vehicles

Published: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 6:32 PM
Updated: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 6:32 PM

Businesses may face penalties for prohibiting guns in private vehicles (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Business groups are fighting an Ohio Senate proposal that will open them up to civil lawsuits by employees and others who bring handguns on to company property.

“For us this isn’t a concealed carry issue as much as this is an employer rights issue,” said Chris Kershner, vice president, public policy & economic development for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Employers should be able to manage the actions in their private business on their private property, period.”

Ohio’s newly expanded concealed carry law - passed in December as Senate Bill 199 - lets people with concealed carry permits bring their guns onto private property regardless of the policies and wishes of the company or property owner.

RELATED: Guns at work: New law allows handguns on private property 

The gun must remain stored in the permit holder’s private vehicle.

But the law did not include any penalties for companies that do not comply and gun rights advocates have called for teeth to be added to it.

RELATED: Guns at work: New law allows handguns on private property

A provision in the Ohio Senate’s version of the proposed state budget would do that by creating a civil liability for employers and property owners if they try to prevent concealed-carry permit holders from bringing their guns onto private property.

John Fortney, spokesman for Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said the new provision is needed to concealed-carry permit holders who are following the rules don’t face unfair discipline at work.

“It doesn’t make sense for someone to lose their job for being responsible and following the law,” Fortney said.

The provision has prompted the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and 17 other business groups to send a letter strongly opposing the new provision to Obhof and Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville.

The letter is signed by groups representing retailers, manufacturers, contractors, auto dealers, financial service and insurance companies, attorneys, and other businesses 

“We were opposed to Senate Bill 199 last year,” said Don Boyd, director of labor and legal affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. “We believed it infringes on employers’ private property rights and everyone’s private property rights. It also applies to every property owner and business owner in the state.”

RELATED: do concealed-carry laws make us safer?

Boyd said the business groups hope the provision will be removed in the final version of the state’s two-year budget that is being discussed now in a 6-member conference committee made up of members of the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives. The House version of the state budget does not include the provision.

“Looking at this new amendment we think it just exacerbates the problems of 199 by creating a new way to file a lawsuit against employers and private property owners,” Boyd said. “It’s a step backward for Ohio’s legal climate.”

The Senate provision would allow the business or property owner to be sued in civil court and the plaintiff awarded compensatory damages, injunctive relief, costs and attorney’s fees.

A lawsuit could be filed against a property owner, or employer “who establishes, maintains, or enforces a policy that prohibits a valid concealed handgun licensee from transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition in the person’s privately owned motor vehicle in accordance with existing law conditions,” according to a summary of the budget provision by the state’s non-partisan Legislative Service Commission.

RELATED: 5 things to know about Ohio’s CCW law

“Penalties are needed because some businesses have refused to comply with the spirit of the law,” said Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association.

He said some employers are “harassing” employees who bring guns to work in their cars by asking them to come forward and show proof of a concealed carry permit and gun safety training.

RELATED: Hundreds killed by guns in workplace

The State Legislature in December approved the concealed carry expansion in a flurry of late night lame duck voting.

RELATED: Gun restrictions ease in Ohio

The law overrides company policies regarding weapons on company property but does not require a business to let people bring guns inside the business.

It was opposed by gun safety advocates and business groups but supported by gun rights advocates who said it allows people to have their weapons with them if they need to defend themselves on the way to and from work.

The concealed carry law originally would have established concealed carry holders as a protected class under civil rights laws but that was removed after businesses objected.

RELATED: Business groups lament Ohio expanded gun laws

The law does not apply to federal facilities like post offices or Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

RELATED: Wright-Patt employees can’t bring handguns to work

The law does let colleges, universities, and local government officials allow concealed carry permit holders to bring guns onto their property. Kershner said private businesses should have given private property owners and businesses the same right to choose to keep guns out.

“This is about employers being able to operate with less government interference,” Kershner said.

RELATED: Residents respond to new law allowing guns on private property

RELATED: 5 things to know about Ohio’s CCW law

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89 homes, town center part of first phase of Warren County community

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 8:21 AM
Updated: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 11:53 AM

The first signs of Union Village — a 1,400-acre, 4,500-home new urbanist community to be built over the next 20 to 30 years in Warren County — should become evident next summer.

The Warren County Regional Planning Commission Executive Committee is to consider the plan for the first phase of the development during a meeting to begin at 1 p.m. Thursday at the county administration building in Lebanon.

RELATED: 12,000 residents, $1.5B in investment expected at Union Village

The development company set up Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices for the project is expected to begin putting in roads and other infrastructure late next spring or early next summer on the $8 million first phase.

“They are fronting a lot of this. They’ve got some protections so they can get it back,” Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan said.

For 30 years, half of the property taxes paid by homeowners and all paid on commercial properties will go into a fund used to pay for roads and infrastructure.

Union Village property owners will be able to enjoy amenities including a town center, places to shop and eat, and a walkable community featuring planned parks and open spaces.

RELATED:Lodgings tax hike to fund $15 million sports complex

A sports complex will be built in Union Village, north along Ohio 741 and on the north side of the property on Greentree Road, west of Lebanon, in Turtlecreek Twp.

It would be the first development in the area overseen by a new community authority that will assess property owners to help offset the cost of amenities and maintenance.

Property owners should expect to pay an additional 12 to 15 mills in property tax next year, $420 to $525 on a $300,000 home or business, according to Nolan.

“But for that, they would pay the same as anyone else living in Turtlecreek Twp.,” Nolan said.

The initial assessments are to be set next month by the Union Village Community Authority, a board set up like a homeowners association, to oversee the development and manage the assessments.

SOCIAL MEDIA:Follow Lawrence Budd on Twitter

Plans call for the town center, 89 homes, four apartment buildings and seven town homes to be built on land across from the main Otterbein retirement campus, between Springboro and Mason on Ohio 741.

RELATED: Otterbein also making changes on retirement campus

If approved, Otterbein next plans to demolish maintenance buildings and barns on the east side of Ohio 741, across from the retirement campus, to clear land for the project.

Dayton: Public incentives return $78 million, 2,760 jobs

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 2:52 PM

The new office building at Water Street is filled, and developers want to build a hotel next door. CORNELIUS FROLIK/STAFF

The city of Dayton has given out about $4.5 million in economic development incentives to private companies since 2013, including more than $1.5 million awarded just this year, according to data obtained by this newspaper.

But the city says its economic development fund investments have resulted in or will result in more than $78 million in private spending, and those employers have pledged to create or retain 2,760 jobs.

RELATED: Dayton to spend up to $1M more on Arcade redevelopment

The city’s biggest awards have gone to some of the most highly anticipated projects in the center city, including the redevelopment of the Dayton Arcade, the building of CareSource’s new office tower and the construction of a new hotel at the Water Street District.

The city invests its economic development funds strategically, officials said, and those payments have persuaded large and important employers to remain or expand in Dayton, including some which have been courted by other communities.

“With the economy improving, there’s more need for economic development incentives,” said Ford Weber, Dayton’s director of economic development. “As the economy strengthens, the projects get bigger — even though our incentives are increasing, we’re leveraging more money than we have in the past.”

RELATED: Dayton OKs funding for $13M hotel project

Recently, Dayton city commissioners approved giving Water Street Hotel LLC $500,000 out of the city’s development fund to support the building of a six-story Fairfield Inn & Suites at the corner of Monument Avenue and Patterson Boulevard, across from Fifth Third Field.

The award will help pay for unexpected engineering and construction costs related to a 5-foot storm sewer line that cuts through the property. The hotel, the first to be built in downtown in more than 15 years, is expected to cost $13 million and will have 98 rooms.

In March, the commission also approved giving $1 million to help pay for architectural, engineering and demolition services for the Dayton Arcade.

The funding, which will be matched by the team developing the complex, will help ensure developers have an accurate cost estimate for the project before closing on the purchase of the property, city officials said. That is important for developers to put together the financing for the project.

The rehab of the arcade could exceed $75 million, which is not yet reflected in the city’s estimated return on investment for its economic development fund awards.

RELATED: Taylor Communications to move hundreds of workers downtown

The city also expects to give Taylor Communications $500,000 out of its economic development fund to help the company move hundreds of workers from their offices on the west side to a building at 111 W. First St. in downtown.

The move benefits a major employer in the city and brings many workers downtown, which hopefully will help existing businesses and will spark new investment, officials said.

In November, the city commission approved spending $500,000 to help CareSource build a new six-story office tower on the 100 block of East First Street that has about 800 office spaces.

CareSource, which employs about 2,100 people downtown, is one of the fastest growing health insurance plans in the nation.

Dayton pitched in funding for the expansion project because it has to compete with other communities to attract and retain major employers, and the entire city benefits from the tax revenue generated by the payroll growth related to the expansions, Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein said last year.

Here’s a look at the 31 projects that have received economic development grants since 2013 and the amount of private investment involved and the number of jobs employers agreed to create or retain.
2013 Development Fund Projects
Development
Fund (Grants)
Private Investment City Investment Created Jobs Pledged Retained Jobs Pledged
Industrial Fiberglass
Specialties INC
$380,000.00 $10,000.00 0 26
Boost Technologies LLC $760,000.00 $50,000.00 20 52
Barr and Prevost $578,000.00 $70,000.00 35 0
idX Dayton Corporation $7,270,000.00 $100,000.00 120 130
Coolidge Wall $60,000.00 0 58
Midmark Corporation $1,800,000.00 $100,000.00 57 0
Front Porch Marketing dba
TriComB2B
$90,000.00 35 0
Total: $10,788,000.00 $ 480,000.00 267 266

2014 Development Fund Projects
Development
Fund (Grants)
Private Investment City Investment Created Jobs Pledged Retained Jobs Pledged
Creative Foam Corporation dba
Dayton Molded Urethanes
$1,500,000.00 $50,000.00 80 90
Elizabeth Place Holdings, LLC $2,350,000.00 $ 200,000.00 0 0
Dinsmore & Shohl LLP $1,250,000.00 $275,000.00 0 0
Total: $5,100,000.00 $525,000.00 80 90

2015 Development Fund Projects
Development
Fund (Grants)
Private Investment City Investment Created
Jobs Pledged
Retained Jobs Pledged
MVPackaging Solutions $2,100,000.00 $10,000.00 9 21
Talbott Tower Associates $50,000.00 $100,000.00 0 30
Techmetals $1,500,000.00 $100,000.00 25 147
GEM City Engineering $4,000,000.00 $100,000.00 25 103
Miller Valentine Group $315,000.00 $60,000.00 36 43
Aimia Proprietary Loyalty $40,000.00 $60,000.00 0 70
Simms Brownstones at 2nd Ltd $4,760,000.00 $240,000.00 0 0
Home Avenue Redevelopment, LLC $300,000.00 0 0
Real Wire, LLC $550,000.00 $35,000.00 0 0
St. Peter Partner, LLC $2,160,000.00 $90,000.00 0 0
Faruki, Ireland, and Cox PLL $275,000.00 $75,000.00 0 0
Total: $15,750,000.00 $1,170,000.00 95 414

2016 Development Fund Projects
Development
Fund (Grants)
Private Investment City Investment Created Jobs Pledged Retained Jobs Pledged
Westwood Fabrication &
Sheet Metal
$723,500.00 $40,000.00 41 0
Angstron Materials, Inc. $1,025,000.00 $65,000.00 15 11
Hohman Plating & MFG, LLC $2,950,000.00 $50,000.00 9 146
GoHypersonic $26,000.00 $6,500.00 1 12
Lunne Marketing Group $100,000.00 $10,000.00 6 20
CareSource $25,000,000.00 $500,000.00 400 500
STP $5,400,000.00 $150,000.00 345 0
Total $35,224,500.00 $821,500.00 817 689

2017 Development Fund Projects
Development
Fund (Grants)
Private Investment City Investment Created Jobs Pledged Retained Jobs Pledged
GCI Metals, Inc $163,800.00 $10,000.00 20 0
Water Street Hotel $ 1,000,000.00 $500,000.00 24 0
Dayton Arcade $1,000,000.00 0 0
Total: $11,163,800.00 $1,510,000.00 44 0