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Published: Wednesday, 11/16/2005

Block grant sought to fund road improvements for dairy

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

JERRY CITY, Ohio - Portage Township trustees are planning to go after Community Development Block Grant funds to improve Bays Road just east of State Rt. 25 before a proposed large-scale dairy is built nearby.

Trustees outlined the $180,000 project to about 30 residents who attended a public hearing on the matter Monday, but a number of issues must be resolved.

The grant application, which is being prepared by a Toledo engineering firm hired by the dairy owners, seeks $90,000. The township would have to match it with an equal amount.

Considering that the township's annual budget for road improvements is around $120,000, some residents don't want to see most of that spent on one mile of road simply because someone wants to build a 1,565-head dairy farm.

Newly elected Trustee Dave Housholder said that unlike a large manufacturing plant, a large dairy does not bring with it a large number of good-paying jobs or produce significant tax revenues for the township where it locates.

"These things, for the revenue they bring in, suck a lot out of the county or township budget," Mr. Housholder said.

Trustees assured residents they had not spent any local tax dollars so far, and that the dairy had hired Hull & Associates to prepare the grant application.

Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said trustees have asked county commissioners to submit the grant application to the Ohio Department of Development.

"The commissioners agreed to apply on behalf of the township, but they can't do that until the application is complete and until we know where the local funding comes from," Mr. Kalmar said yesterday. "The township doesn't have enough money to focus on one project like this."

Mr. Housholder said he is still holding out hope the dairy will abandon its plans or that the state will reject the application because the site is prone to flooding.

Applications from Naomi Dairy LLC for permits to install and operate are under review by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said Bill Schwaderer, department spokesman. The most recent information submitted to the state indicates the dairy on Solether Road would accommodate up to 1,565 cows, although previous information from Naomi indicated the dairy would be for up to 1,750 cows.

"I have a problem with what these dairies are going to do to the township," Mr. Housholder said. "My thought is let's not expend the money until perhaps they realize they are not welcome in this community and decide to go someplace else. I want to make sure we don't spend a lot of money for a dairy that's not coming or can't build a dairy the size they want to."

If Portage Township goes after the state funding, it would mark the first time Wood County tried to get such a grant for road work related to a large-scale dairy.

Last year, the county commissioners hired Poggemeyer Design Group to prepare plans and grant application for block grants funds to improve a one-mile stretch of Cygnet Road just east of State Rt. 235, but it canceled the contract after plans for a proposed 925-head dairy on Cygnet Road were suspended.

Mr. Kalmar said the county asked Vreba-Hoff Dairy Development to notify it if and when plans for the dairy resumed because the county must apply for the grant money prior to the beginning of construction. He said work on that dairy ultimately resumed without commissioners' knowledge so it was too late to try to get the state funds.

Contact Jennifer Feehan

at jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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