Welcome to Huron County, Governor. Here’s the bill.
That’s the message Milan Mayor Robert Bickley will have for Gov. Ted Strickland at 1 p.m. today when Strickland arrives in uptown Norwalk.
The bill isn’t actually for Strickland, but for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) in the ongoing battle between the agency and Milan over responsibility for $100,000 of repairs needed to repair erosion on the northbound lane of U.S. 250 near the boundary between Huron and Erie counties.
Bickley said since ODOT is part of state government, maybe the governor can get some cooperation from the agency.
Bickley said the temporary fix the Huron County Engineer’s department completed this week cost the village almost $7,000. That includes the work done by the county crew, the cost of the stone and the cost for traffic control.
Laurence Bicking, director of the Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC), said Friday he told an ODOT representative last week that funds are available to cover 90 percent of the cost of repairs if the project fits guidelines for emergency grants. Bicking has been waiting for more information, such as engineering plans, and said a decision could be made in as few as two days.
ODOT never reported that conversation to Milan officials, Bickley said, adding the village is through with paying for repairs for that road.
“It should be ODOT applying for this,” Bickley said.
Milan Administrator Bruce Bowie said the repairs are not routine maintenance. “They are structural in nature, which makes them the responsibility of ODOT,” he said. “Any more than what’s already been done needs to be done by ODOT with ODOT funding. The village doesn’t intend to do anything more than has already been done.”
Bowie said it would set a dangerous precedent if the village caved in to ODOT’s demands. “What happens next year when it’s a quarter-million dollars and there’s no grant money. Who knows how much we could get hooked into until ODOT, on its own schedule, decides to replace that bridge,” Bowie said. “There could be more costs down the road. The bridge has been pushed off for more than a decade already and the last I heard its more than five years away.”
Brian Stacy, ODOT District 3 spokesman, said Friday the agency is waiting for the village to call. “We’ve made the offer,” Stacy said. “We offered to prepare the plans for the village on Nov. 21.” Stacy said ODOT could prepare engineering plans “rather quickly,” but the agency won’t start until Milan makes a formal request.
The stand-off started after a Milan employee noticed the erosion damage after heavy rains in late summer. ODOT informed Milan that all maintenance of roadways in the village is its responsibility. Milan replied it didn’t have the money for the repairs since it earmarks gasoline tax revenue for maintenance of state and federal roads, but that is less than $3,000 a year.
In November, ODOT threatened to complete the repairs and then bill the village. Bickley threatened to close down the northbound lane. Huron County Engineer Joe Kovach stepped in to offer his staff for a temporary fix and Bickley agreed to pay to cost, but said he would pass the bill on to ODOT.
Strickland is in town to stump for Robin Weirauch, a candidate for the 5th Congressional District seat in the Dec. 11 special election.