By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

COVID relief funds offer Wood County and Bowling Green the opportunity to do a lot of good with a lot of money.

Wood County commissioners have a total of $25.4 million to split, while the city of Bowling Green has a total of $7.3 million to split.

Bowling Green Mayor Mike Aspacher called the funding a “historic opportunity.”

“Absolutely, there was a feeling that this was an opportunity to do important things that will last,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said.

The pots of money have raised requests from projects hungry for funding.

Of these projects, $9 million has been approved to extend public water and sewer services to residences in Dunbridge.

“It’s going to be life changing for these people in Dunbridge,” Kalmar said.

In Bowling Green, $4 million has already been committed for street paving, first responder radio equipment, City Park paving, an inclusive playground at Carter Park, and housing grants.

The public is invited to a forum Thursday, May 12, at 6 p.m. to share ideas about the nearly $3 million remaining in funding for Bowling Green. Ideas so far range from pickleball courts and dog parks to downtown parking lots, traffic lights and roundabouts.

The demands far exceed the dollars available to the city and county.

Wood County commissioners listened to groups advocating for a share of one-time funding.

So far, the county has received requests for nearly $42 million. And there may be more requests to come, Kalmar said.

The county’s available $25.4 million is divided into two spending areas:

  • $15.4 million for eligible American Rescue Plan Act projects under US Treasury Department rules.
  • $10 million the county can claim as lost revenue due to COVID. This funding can be spent on government services with far fewer restrictions than ARPA projects.

Commissioners have approved some projects in both money categories.

In ARPA Project Specific Funding, the county approved:

  • $275,000 for sheriff’s office and jail staff bonus.
  • $9 million for the water and sewer project on Ohio 582 in Dunbridge, requested by the Northwest Water & Sewer District.
  • $400,000 for water and sewer lines to Mercer Road in the Sugar Ridge area, also requested by the Northwest Water & Sewer District.
  • $1 million to identify and replace lead water pipes throughout the county, at the request of the Northwest Water & Sewer District.
  • $800,000 to the Cocoon Shelter.
  • $437,500 for storm water issues on Deimling Road, requested by the Wood County Engineer.
  • $530,000 for storm water issues on East Broadway Road, also requested by the Wood County Engineer.

About $3 million remains, but nearly $16 million in other claims. The projects requested, without decision to date, include:

  • $4.1 million, or whatever amount is available, for water lines in Pemberville.
  • $10.9 million, or whatever amount is available, for water lines in North Baltimore.
  • $871,280 for Habitat for Humanity of Wood County.

In the $10 million fund to offset lost county revenue, commissioners approved:

  • $394,673 for a stormwater study requested by the Wood County Engineer.
  • $3 million interim approval for Wood County landfill expansion.
  • $4 million interim approval for air handling systems in county buildings.

That leaves at least $2.6 million — or more depending on the tentative amounts approved. So far, other requests have been made for an additional $7.2 million, including:

  • $3.4 million for a county-wide dispatch system for the Wood County Sheriff’s Office.
  • $3.8 million for the county’s 19 townships to improve one mile of road each, for an estimated $200,000 each.

The request for assistance in improving the township’s roads was made on Tuesday. But Kalmar said the county’s COVID relief funds cannot be used for road or bridge projects — unless it involves necessary improvements following drainage repairs.

However, Kalmar said the county is expecting news soon on federal infrastructure funds that could eventually be used for the township’s road application.

“I think there will be more money soon,” Kalmar said.