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ODOT says Milan must pay

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:07 PM

The attorney general's office has spoken, but Milan Mayor Robert Bickley isn't giving up in his quest to make state or federal officials pay for major repairs on U.S. 250.

A severe thunderstorm last September uncovered extensive erosion along the side of the highway and Milan notified the Ohio Department of Transportation so the state agency could assist in repairs.

ODOT officials replied the responsibility for repairs estimated at $100,000 rests solely with the village because it is in village limits. Milan officials contend that the problem is not normal maintenance, but was caused by structural defects in the road's original construction.

ODOT recently sent a letter confirming the agency's view that the village alone is responsible for the repairs.

"One power of local self-government is the care and maintenance of roads within the jurisdiction of a city or village, including state and U.S. routes. U.S. 250 is a state highway," wrote Catherine Cola Perkins, chief legal counsel for ODOT.

But Bickley said he still believes ODOT should take responsibility since the problem is structural, instead of normal maintenance.

"The attorney from the attorney general's office is employed by the state and they're going to take ODOT's side," he said.

The letter from Perkins said Milan received more than $55,000 in both 2006 and 2007 from "gas tax moneys to maintain its streets, including state routes, within its jurisdiction."

Bickley said the village did get that amount, but is had to spread throughout the village for regular maintenance. He has asked the state auditor to send a breakdown on the money, Bickley said.

"Some must be spent on streets inside the village," he added, saying the village wouldn't be able to do regular maintenance on streets for two years to pay for the repairs. Bickley said in December that fund had less than $3,000 available at the end of the year.

Bickley said he has asked state representative Rep. Matt Barrett (D-Amherst) and state senators Sue Morano (D-Lorain) and Mark Wagoner Jr. (R-Toledo) for help, but they were not able to sway ODOT. He said Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba) did not respond to the village's request for help.

"They need to clarify the law," Bickley said, at the state level to keep small municipalities from bearing the burden of overwhelming costs for state roadways.

Now Bickley is taking his efforts to Washington, D.C. He will be in the capital in late February for the annual American Public Power Legislative Rally, which he attends every year.

"I've got all of our national elected officials aware of this problem," Bickley said. "We'll go down to give them our side of the story."

Bickley said he hopes federal funds might be available to fix the erosion and build a new bridge near the site at the same time.

"Its a matter of getting money earmarked in a piece of legislation," he said. "I'm going for the full thing and not just pour sand down a rat hole. Let's do it right."

ODOT has had replacement of the bridge on a schedule for several years, but it has been delayed several times. Bickley would like to repair the erosion and replace the existing bridge with a four-lane bridge as part of one project.

"Years ago ODOT patched the bridge and that's deteriorating," he said. "We don't want a Minneapolis here."

Bickley said he is setting up meetings with U.S. senators Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) and George Voinovich (R-Cleveland) and representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) and Robert Latta (R-Bowling Green) when he is in Washington.

"I'm going to keep it on the front burner," Bickley said.

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