funding facing 20 percent cut
By Jeff Gallatin
Published July 27, 2005
Thomas O'Grady is concerned that federal legislators may be taking
the proposed Crocker-Stearns extension project down the wrong road.
Members of the House and Senate conference committee are working
on resolving the differences between the two versions of transportation
project legislation. One Senate proposal would cut $180,000 out
of the $900,000 obtained by Rep. Dennis Kucinich and his colleagues
in the House legislation. If approved, the fund reduction would
be part of an across-the-board 20 percent cut in House priority
O'Grady said taking $180,000 out of the long-awaited project would
be a blow to North Olmsted and the Westshore.
"We've been working on getting that project underway for some time,"
O'Grady said. "It's been in the planning stages for over 30 years.
To lose that kind of funding at this stage would be a major problem
for the work. It's a major project for our area because there is
no major north-south connector for transportation in our region."
Because of tight fiscal budgets in recent years, North Olmsted has
had problems obtaining its share of funds for the Crocker-Stearns
extension project, which will provide connections between the two
heavily traveled roadways.
O'Grady said North Olmsted would be hard-pressed to find the funds
else be hard-pressed to find the funds elsewhere.
"At this point, I would say we are concerned about the possible
loss of funds at the federal level," O'Grady said. "If the one bill
does indeed come to pass, then we would have to make some very hard
decisions in the city at the budget level."
George Nashar, chairman of North Olmsted's Streets and Transportation
Committee, said he's concerned the project may be delayed.
"We're supposed to get it going in 2006 and losing $180,000 could
hurt that," Nashar said. "If we don't get the amount of federal
money we anticipated it could push it back again and after nearly
30 years people don't want that. If we had to find it somewhere
else I don't know where we would get that kind of money right now."
O'Grady said he does not want to make the project wait any longer.
"We really don't want to do that, and I don't think we can do that
much longer," O'Grady said. "If we lose those federal funds, then
I think we would have to look at other areas of the city budget
to try and find the money and keep the project moving forward."
O'Grady said he wants to see how the federal legislation is finalized
before speculating on what action the city would take to compensate
for the loss of any federal funds.
"We're in close contact with Congressman Kucinich about the situation
and he is working closely with us to try and ensure the funding,"
O'Grady said. "I also discussed the situation with Sen. (George)
Voinovich at a recent meeting and he was sympathetic to our concerns.
I've followed that up with letters to Sens. Voinovich and (Mike)
DeWine about the situation. We're going to stay on top of this."
In his letter, O'Grady outlined how the Crocker-Stearns project
has developed and how the loss of $180,000 would have a major impact
on the North Olmsted portion of the project.
"It is imperative that you understand that this project not only
enhances North Olmsted, but also the many other communities on the
west side of Cuyahoga County and the eastern portion of Lorain County,"
the mayor wrote.
"Based upon the needs in this city and the importance of this project
for our region, I cannot urge you strongly enough to reject the
proposal to reduce House High Priority Projects."
Doug Gordon, Kucinich's press secretary, said the congressman is
working to preserve the House funding.
"He has been speaking with his colleagues in the Conference Committee
and he closely been monitoring the progress of all the transportation
projects in the district," Gordon said. "In particular, he has been
working on the concerns expressed by Mayor O'Grady because he knows
how vital the project is to that area. He's confident the district
projects will receive appropriate funding."
Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough said he supports O'Grady's efforts.
"That project benefits the entire Westshore," Clough said. "Westlake,
North Olmsted and everybody involved has worked very hard to try
and get the project underway. We would support Mayor O'Grady in
asking that the funds remain in the project and that the project
be kept on track."
Officials from Voinovich's office are still in the process of reviewing
the matter and are awaiting a final decision from the conferees.