East Liverpool to Apply for Up to $7.5M in Grant Funding

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – Among economic development plans that moved forward during a series of meetings Wednesday was a resolution for city officials to apply for nearly $7.5 million in grant funding.

During a special City Council finance committee meeting, members heard from Planning Director Bill Cowan about a resolution authorizing the mayor or service-safety director to submit an application for the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Discretionary Grant Program.

In December, the city was awarded a $29,712,043 Rural Surface Transportation Grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation to complete construction of state Route 39 from Mulberry Street east to the Pennsylvania state line.

At that time, Cowan said the city would have to “go knocking on doors” for its matching share of the project cost, the amount of which was not known at that time. Since then, it was learned the city will need a match of about $7.5 million, although he said Wednesday the Ohio Department of Transportation has also committed $1.5 million toward the project cost.

He told members of the finance committee it was initially believed the original $29 million grant included installation of new water and sewer lines, but that is not the case, and the cost will have to be paid with other funding.

East Liverpool Planning Director Bill Cowan explains to City Council’s finance committee the details of a $7.5 million grant application.

The grant does include the cost of stormwater drainage, removal and replacement of existing pavement, lane widening and curve improvements, curb ramps and bump-outs, on-street parking, tree lawns, street lighting, increased broadband and a roundabout.

Cowan said the city has been assigned a grant specialist to assist with the project, and an initial meeting was scheduled for Thursday.

Committee Chairman Fred Rayl said the project “will transform East End if we make it happen,” and Cowan responded, “Oh, we’re gonna make it happen.”

Cowan said while this grant is a “big piece of the puzzle,” it is not guaranteed, and they are looking at other funding sources.

The committee recommended the legislation be forwarded to City Council for consideration, and during a brief special council session after the meeting, the resolution was passed unanimously under suspension of rules with no comment except from John Torma, council president and an East End resident who said, “This is something that’s really big for East End and the city as a whole.” 

Cowan said he had just learned of the RAISE funding last week, and the grant application must be submitted by Feb. 28.

In other economic development matters, during a meeting of the council’s planning and expansion committee, which followed the special council session, members forwarded two zoning requests to the council for its decision.

A request by Heritage Transport to change its property along St. George Street from R-1, residential, to M-3, manufacturing, had already been considered in June 2022 by the Planning Commission, which recommended it to the council for a decision. The council recently held a public hearing and then referred it to committee.

Committee Chairman Tom Beagle said he had proposed a section of the property be rezoned B-3, business, instead of M-3, so a planned office building could be placed there.

Steve Clausing, Heritage Transport president, addressed the committee, saying the for-hire transportation company has seven transportation hubs and takes safety compliance “very seriously.”

Plans include adding a dock and a new office with a lounge area for drivers, as well as new parking space for employees.

He said cosmetic considerations will be prioritized, with flowers, bushes and mulch.

Beagle asked how many city taxpayers can be expected to be employed at the facility. Clausing said the company has 25 from Ohio and the area. Of those, 14 to 20 are drivers, and the rest are office staff.  

Ohio Avenue resident Linda Ziegler was the only audience member to comment on the zoning change, but her concerns were allayed with the alterations Beagle proposed in the original plan, which she called a “fairly fair compromise.”

“As with every zoning change, I ask, ‘If you wouldn’t vote for it to be across the street from your house, why would you vote for it to be across the street from somebody else’s?'” Ziegler said.

“We really tried to iron this out with you in mind and the things you brought up,” Beagle replied.

The committee voted unanimously to recommend the zoning change to the council, which will make the final decision.

With no comment from the property owners or committee members, a unanimous vote was cast to recommend to the council a zoning request by John Pierre and Josee Daniels.

The Danielses are requesting property at the intersection of Mulberry Street and Pennsylvania Avenue be rezoned from R-3, residential, to B-4, highway business, to allow construction of a gas station that would accommodate tractor-trailers and include a convenience store.

Both the city planning commission and City Council have held public hearings on this zoning change request. The final decision now rests with the council.

If the council approves the zoning change, the Danielses have said they expect construction to begin in the spring, with completion anticipated within 18 months.

Pictured at top: The eastbound entrance to the East End neighborhood of East Liverpool.

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