Kent hopes to receive $3 million in stimulus money

Christina Thomas

Akron mayor voices opinion

Correction: The below story wrongly attributed information to Dan Smith, Kent’s economic development director. The information is actually from City Manager Dave Ruller. The story below reflects these changes.

Kent City Council will know today whether the city will receive $3 million in stimulus money for the Crain Avenue Bridge project.

“If the city is successful in obtaining $3 million in stimulus funds, the local share for the city will be around $4 million,” City Manager Dave Ruller said. “The rest is funding coming from various federal bridge safety funds, state transportation funding sources and Portage County.”

Ruller said the federal stimulus money for transportation projects funnels through the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Agency (AMATS) because it is the designated metropolitan planning organization for federal and state transportation funding in the region.

“Once we learn the results of the vote, we will most likely share the information with Council in an e-mail or via the weekly manager’s communication to council,” Ruller said.

AMATS has established formulas and criteria that are mutually agreed upon for distributing transportation funds, Ruller said. Those criteria, in conjunction with the terms of the stimulus money, were used to create a list of projects that best meet all of the objectives of the $14 million in stimulus funding.

“Kent and Portage County’s Crain/Fairchild Avenue bridge project was one of the projects that made the top of the list and was recommended by the cities and county representatives on the Technical Advisory Committee for $3 million,” he said.

The Technical Committee recommendations must then be approved by the AMATS Policy Committee, which will meet today.

Akron mayor Don Plusquellic wrote a letter to city council expressing his concerns about the amount of funds the city is requesting from AMATS.

“The spirit of the (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) was to utilize the stimulus funding in a way to implement new projects and create new jobs,” Plusquellic stated in his letter. “Limiting communities to submit a single application prior to any Policy Committee action and implying almost 50% of the AMATS stimulus funding allocation has been committed may not be viewed as being in the best interest of the AMATS area.”

Plusquellic also sent the letter to Gov. Ted Strickland, Reps. Tim Ryan and Betty Sutton, Sens. George Voinovich and Sherrod Brown, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and state infrastructure czar Ronald Richard.

Ruller said he’s sure the policy committee members will take Plusquellic’s opinion into consideration and the other mayors and policy members will also make a case for their respective jurisdictions to get more funding as well.

“It’s not so much that he’s opposed to the Kent/Portage County project, it’s just that the mayor of Akron would like to see more of the money be available for Akron-related projects so he’s making his case to that end,” Ruller said.

The $3 million in stimulus funds aren’t designated for something specific such as the bridge deck or superstructure, but they would be part of the funds used for the construction phase of the project, Ruller said.

Ruller said the city already paid for the bridge design phase and the right of way acquisition phase, so now the project is ready for construction, which is where the $3 million will be used.

Contact public affairs reporter Christina Thomas at [email protected].