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.

South Carolinian wants to grow medical marijuana in Warren County

Published: Friday, May 26, 2017 @ 9:41 AM


            A South Carolina man is seeking permission to grow medical marijuana between Lebanon and Mason in Warren County.

A South Carolina man plans to grow medical marijuana in Warren County.

RELATED: Warren County anticipates medical marijuana cultivation action

Anil Bhatara of Anderson, S.C., applied for a zoning permit to grow marijuana for medical use in a 3,500 square foot pole barn at 4258 Cox Smith Road, between Lebanon and Mason in Union Twp.

SOCIAL MEDIA:Follow Lawrence Budd on Twitter

Bhatara is not the person identified last week as having inquired about the county permit. Yetter indicated he had received multiple inquiries before Bhatara’s application.

Warren County Zoning Inspector Mike Yetter said the application, submitted Thursday, would be reviewed by county prosecutors.

Yetter briefed the county commissioners last week about inquiries about obtaining a permit from the county for the agricultural use in hopes of being selected by the state as one of 24 locations where medical marijuana cultivation would be permitted.

MORE: Butler County businessman fears legal fight over medical marijuana cultivation plans

In June, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a law legalizing marijuana for use by patients with one of 21 conditions, such as cancer, traumatic brain injury or chronic pain. It also allows medical marijuana edibles, oils, patches and vaporizing, but not smoking or home growing, to supply the patients.

RELATED: Ohio to license medical marijuana growers

The permit would be used to qualify for one of up to 24 medical marijuana cultivator licenses the Ohio Department of Commerce can issue “prior to” Sept. 9, 2018, according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.

Warren County grandstands demolished after 70 years of use

Published: Friday, May 26, 2017 @ 8:21 AM

The grandstands at Warren County Fairgrounds have been reduced to rubble.

On Thursday, contractors were working on piles of building materials left after more than week of demolition work on the facilities used by decades of horse racing fans and county fairgoers.

The building will be replaced by a $3 million event center described by an architect as a “”Swiss Army knife kind of building,” easily modified for activities ranging from annual fair activities to weddings to races on the adjoining track.

RELATED: Event center to replace grandstands at Warren County Fairgrounds

For 70 years, the grandstands and track were used principally for harness racing, except during the weeks it was devoted to the county fair. Beneath the enclosed seats, the late Corwin Nixon, a long-time state representative, maintained an office.

RELATED: Grandstands were centerpiece of Lebanon Raceway

They fell into disrepair after live racing and off-track betting were sold to the operators of the Miami Valley Gaming & Racing, the racino just off Interstate 75, west of Lebanon.

RELATED: Racing moves to racino, although horses still stabled in Lebanon 

The event center is envisioned as the centerpiece of the redeveloped fairgrounds. The county plans to use funds set aside by state law and donated to the county by the racino operators.

RELATED: $12 million set aside for four Ohio cities

The property is owned by the Warren County Board of Commissioners, although Ohio law puts the agricultural society, better known as the fair board, in charge of the facilities.

The fair board and county commissioners reached agreement on the event center, but much of the parking lot next to the new facility is still owned by the Carlos family, with the Nixons the two families that controlled racing seasons before the move.

RELATED: Commissioners want control of private parcel within fairgrounds complex

However, the commissioners continued to discuss how much to spend on the facility.

Commissioner Shannon Jones suggested the Track Kitchen, a restaurant on the fairgrounds, could use some reinvestment.

The architecture firm McGill Smith Punshon has been hired to design the event center.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow Lawrence Budd on Twitter

Commissioner Tom Grossmann suggested the facility could be enlarged for $300,000 to serve larger and a more diverse array of events.

“Wy wouldn’t we do that?” Grossmann said.

Democrat files to challenge Congressman Mike Turner

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 3:38 PM
Updated: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 1:50 PM

Congressman Michael Turner (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

UPDATE: The name of a first possible challenger for U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, in 2018 has surfaced. Democrat Michael J. Milisits of Riverside filed a statement of candidacy  for the 2018 10th Congressional District race.

“I want the average person to have a voice in Washington,” Milisits said.

His filing with the Federal Elections Commission sets up his campaign committee, but Milisits has not started gathering signatures on nominating petitions necessary to get his name on the ballot.

He also has raised no money for the race.

Turner, who has held the seat since 2003, has $302,202 on hand, according to the FEC website.

5/22/17

For the first time in more than a dozen years, the congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, is being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has named 79 seats of more than 130 it plans to focus on in 2018.

Turner was one of 20 new targets the DCCC announced Monday. He is one of only two that voted against the recent Republican legislation to replace Obamacare.

Mark Owens, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party says the DCCC sees the 10th District as winnable for a Democrat in part because of the district makeup and also because of the current political climate.

RELATED: Look back at Turner’ 2016 race

The district includes all of Montgomery, Greene and part of Fayette County.

Turner’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

“I think it’s because even though it is a gerrymandered district it is less gerrymandered than some others around the country,” Owens said.

Owens said two potential candidates are already interested in challenging Turner in 2018 but he would not name them as he did not have their permission to do so.

RELATED: With protesters outside Republicans at local GOP dinner stress unity

“One is a West Point grad, Afghan/Iraq vet” and the other is a a local businesswoman, Owens said. He said one of the two “has some wealth and is going to put some money into” the race, which Owens expects will require $1 million to $1.5 million to be competitive.

Blaine Kelly, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, said Turner won by a large margin in the Nov. 2016 over teacher Robert Klepinger, a Democrat, and Huber Heights Mayor Thomas McMasters, an independent.

“The only explanation for the Democrats’ decision to target Congressman Turner, or any Republican seats in Ohio, is that they are gluttons for punishment. Congressman Turner’s constituents gave him a giant stamp of approval last November by reelecting him with sixty-four percent of the vote,” Kelly said. “Democrats can manufacture outrage when Republicans keep campaign promises, but they can’t fake votes.”

Turner’s seat is one of four in Ohio the DCCC believes can be taken from Republican incumbents in 2018. The others are U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, Bob Gibbs, R-Avon, and Dave Joyce, R-Russell Twp. Nearly all the targeted seats are held by the GOP and the others are open.

RELATED: Groups hold town hall without Rep. Mike Turner

Owens said a Democratic candidate can get logistical and fund-raising support from the DCCC in a targeted race. He thinks the last time Turner’s district was targeted was the year he won it in a 2002 battle against Democrat Rick Carne to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Tony Hall, D-Dayton.

“We’re incredibly excited that our national partners are expanding the map and targeting races like Ohio’s 10th Congressional District,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper.

The DCCC raised more than $9 million in April, beating previous records for the month, according to The Hill. However that’s about $1 million less than what was raised last month by Republicans.

City to make $130,000 purchase to create Wilmington Pike parking lot

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 10:14 AM


            .

The city of Kettering passed a resolution Tuesday that will allow them to purchase the building at 3813 Wilmington Pike for $130,000.

City Economic Development Manager Gregg Gorsuch said the city’s primary plan is to demolish the existing building in favor of creating a parking lot for the adjacent office building at 3809 Wilmington Pike, though other options could be considered.

“Once we get control of the property we will definitely look at all the options to make sure that is the best one,” Gorsuch said.

Gorsuch said the building is currently occupied by American Family Insurance but that the tenant is looking to relocate.

In Your Community: Kettering Reads

Kettering qualifies for state auditor award

Block party set in Kettering

New store opens at Town & Country in Kettering

Hearing today for teen accused of murder in Fairmont student’s shooting death

OVI checkpoint planned in Kettering Friday night