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.

4 Montgomery County candidates ruled invalid; Dayton schools race set

Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2017 @ 11:25 AM
Updated: Tuesday, August 15, 2017 @ 4:47 PM


            Montgomery County Board of Elections officials ruled four candidates will not appear on the November ballot because of problems with their petitions. CHRIS STEWART/STAFF
Montgomery County Board of Elections officials ruled four candidates will not appear on the November ballot because of problems with their petitions. CHRIS STEWART/STAFF

The names of four Montgomery County residents who hoped to run for office will not appear on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The Board of Elections on Tuesday ruled invalid the petitions of Julia Caserta, Ben DeGroat, David Esrati and Donna M. Hill.

According to the board, three names were tossed due to an insufficient number of qualifying signatures: Caserta, who filed to run for a Harrison Twp. trustee position; DeGroat, who filed for German Twp. trustee; and Hill, who sought a Dayton School Board seat.

MORE: Miami County tosses out petitions for 19 candidates

David Esrati, a Dayton resident who has had petitions for different offices rejected in previous election cycles, was denied a spot on the ballot for the Montgomery County Educational Services Center board because he doesn’t reside in the center’s district.

At least 188 candidates requested petitions for the election heavy on municipal and school board offices, according to the Board of Elections.

Due to differences in municipal charters, candidates hoping to make it on the ballot in Kettering, Moraine and Riverside races have until 4 p.m. on Aug. 24 to file their petitions with the elections board.

MORE: Springboro teacher arrested on drug, child endangering charges

“We’ve just had four invalid at this point. That’s actually pretty low,” said Jan Kelly, Board of Elections director. “I think the candidates did a great job of filling out the petitions.”

Dayton School board race set

Eight candidates were certified to run for four seats on the Dayton School Board.

Joe Lacey is the only incumbent seeking re-election in November.

The other candidates are Mohamed Al-Hamandi, Paul Bradley, Ann Marie Gallin, William Harris Jr., Jocelyn Rhynard, Jo’el Jones and Karen Wick-Gagnet.

ELECTION COVERAGE

Our team of local reporters will have coverage of the key races and tax issues on the ballot over the next few months.

The ballot is full of local candidates running for mayor, city council, school board and township positions.

In early October, look for our online, interactive voters guide with information on hundreds of candidates and issues across the region.

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 10. Early voting starts Oct. 10.

Flight blocked from landing in Indy due to VP visit sent to Dayton

Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2017 @ 11:29 AM
Updated: Tuesday, August 15, 2017 @ 1:26 PM


            Vice President Mike Pence
Vice President Mike Pence

A plane low on fuel traveling from Chicago to Indianapolis Friday was forced to land in Dayton since Vice President Mike Pence’s plane was on the runway there.

According to RTV6 in Indianapolis, the flight was in Indianapolis air space and was denied permission to land at Indianapolis International Airport.

Air traffic controllers said United Express flight 3633 could not land because Air Force Two was on the runway.

After 20 minutes of asking to land, the flight’s fuel level went too low and the pilots traveled more than 120 miles to Dayton International Airport to refuel and then fly back to Indianapolis.

Pence was in Indianapolis for a luncheon event.

School board races start in Springboro, Lebanon, Waynesville

Published: Friday, August 11, 2017 @ 3:19 PM


            Five candidates are seeking three seats on Springboro’s board of education in November.
Five candidates are seeking three seats on Springboro’s board of education in November.

School board incumbents in Springboro, Lebanon and Waynesville are facing re-election challenges in the Nov. 7 election.

In Springboro, political newcomers Theresa Schneider and Michelle Teska are challenging Dan Gudz, who was appointed earlier this year, and Charles Anderson and Dave Stuckey, who are seeking re-election.

RELATED: Feuding board appoints new member

“I’ve always helped other people. This is the first time running myself,” Schneider said Friday, citing work for Gov. John Kasich and other state and county level Republican candidates.

“I feel like the school board’s been in turmoil for a while,” she said. “I thought this would be a chance for me to do a service for the community.”

MORE: Lebanon picks new superintendent

In Lebanon, Art Hathaway and David Donovan are contesting the re-election of Ryan Patterson and Brian DeGennaro.

In the Wayne Local Schools, Darren Amburgy is challenging incumbents Dave Barton, Brad Conner and Danny McCloud.

MORE: Wayne board ends football coach contract

McCloud is seeking his fifth term on the Wayne Local Schools Board of Education.

MORE: Bomb threats back in Warren County schools

A resident of Waynesville for 60 of his 61 years, he said he continues to run for the office out of his attachment to the community and the school district.

“I love Waynesville, love the community, love students,” he said.

Two public safety levies to appear on Perry Twp. ballot

Published: Thursday, August 10, 2017 @ 6:01 PM


            Perry Twp. trustees Gerald Peters, left, and Sheila Stanifer both voted to place new continuous police and fire/EMS levies on the November ballot. The township trustees President Dale Seim was absent. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
            Chris Stewart
Perry Twp. trustees Gerald Peters, left, and Sheila Stanifer both voted to place new continuous police and fire/EMS levies on the November ballot. The township trustees President Dale Seim was absent. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF(Chris Stewart)

Voters in Perry Twp. will see two public safety levies on the ballot in November.

Trustees approved the language for a 1.5-mill police levy and another 1.5-mill fire and emergency medical services levy during a special meeting last week, but some residents objected to police issues.

Both are continuous and would each cost the owner of $100,000 house $52.50 more a year, or $105 if voters approve both issues, according to the Montgomery County Auditor’s Office.

Perry Twp. police Chief Mike Rinehart said department resources have been stagnant since 2003, the last time a police levy passed following one in 1998. Both of those would continue.

RELATED: Human services levy renewal headed to Montgomery County ballot

The effective rates of the current assessments have decreased over the years, according to the auditor’s office. Inflation on top of that has made the roughly $500,000 police budget not stretch as far as it did 14 years ago, Rinehart said.

Police staffing at the department has fluctuated but is now down to a bare-bones force as rising costs for fuel, vehicles, equipment and dispatch services – and now increased state-mandated training — chiseled away at funds that could pay officers. Those who are hired often “springboard” to better-paying jobs at neighboring departments, he said.

The department currently has three full-time positions, including the chief’s, and a handful of part time officers typically working one shift a week. Rinehart said passage of the levy would allow the department five or six full-time positions and at least six dedicated part-timers.

Some residents, however, complain that the department has enough and that a year-to-year carryover in police funds — now at more than $180,000 — shows that no tax hike is required for the agency that serves roughly 4,000 township residents.

RELATED: Sinclair Community College will seek renewal of $27M levy

“I don’t know how you justify having a police levy when you carry that balance over for the last three years for a small township,” said resident Chuck Sweet.

Rinehart said it would be possible to achieve the staffing level he envisions using the carryover, but it wouldn’t be sustainable, he said.

“I’m looking multiple years into the future,” Rinehart said. “The last thing in the world I want to see happen is we bring people on … then two years down the road, three years down the road, we have to cut down and tell people we can’t have five full-timers and take jobs away from people.”

Township trustees Gerald Peters and Sheila Stanifer both voted to place the levies on the ballot. Trustees President Dale Seim was absent.

Stanifer said costs are also rising to keep the 36-square-mile township covered by fire protection and emergency medical services. The township already shortened a contract from four years to two with the Brookville Fire Department due to funding uncertainty, she said.

RELATED: City proposes new tax for more emergency services funding

“We’re trying to hang on to what we have and be proactive about the future,” she said.

Perry Twp. voters last approved a fire/EMS levy in 2013. The Brookville Fire Department serves roughly the northern part of the township in western Montgomery County while the southern half is served by the New Lebanon Fire Department.

An owner-occupant of a $100,000 home in Perry Twp. currently pays $82 a year for the 2013 fire/EMS levy and $152 a year for the police levies, according to the auditor’s office.

The deadline for voter registration deadline is Oct. 10 for the Nov. 7 election.