By SARA CLIFFORD and SUZANNAH COUCH

When the state announced the recipients of Community Crossings road repair grants late last month, there was good news and bad news.

Nashville received funding for nearly every project on its list: $181,080.

Brown County received nothing. It had applied for $1.3 million.

Bellsville Pike and Helmsburg Road were the roads the county was planning to pave with this money next year.

Brown County commissioner Diana Biddle said Bellsville Pike still will be paved from State Road 135 South at Stone Head to the Brown-Barth-olomew county line, but the money will come from a capital improvement loan the county plans to take out.

What happened

Scott Manning with the Indiana Department of Transportation said INDOT is not commenting on specific applications. But he pointed out that the pool of funding — $150 million — was much less than the funding requests that governments all over the state turned in — $261 million — and that’s why it wasn’t possible to grant all requests.

Next year, INDOT anticipates having about $190 million available to award, Manning said.

The county would have had to put in $333,333.33 as match money, which would come from the increase in the wheel tax and surtaxes the county council approved in August.

Brown County Highway Superintendent Mike Magner said that money still will be used for road paving now; it just won’t go through the state program.

Last year, Brown County received $1 million in grants and had to match that money dollar for dollar. This allowed the county to pave a little more than 20 miles, including parts of Salt Creek Road, Sweetwater Trail, T.C. Steele and Crooked Creek roads.

Magner said he plans to resubmit Helmsburg Road for Community Crossings funding next year to pave it in 2019.

“We think we can let Helmsburg (Road) go one more year, but Bellsville (Pike) is in much worse condition, and Bellsville will still have our highest priority,” Biddle said.

She believes Brown County did not receive funding this year since it received $1 million last year.

“I think it was more of a concerted effort to spread the wealth,” she said. “When Mike (Magner) looked at the counties that did not get it, those counties all got the full million last year.”

Biddle said there also was more of an emphasis on helping cities and towns over counties.

Next year, INDOT is considering using a sliding scale for match money, so that larger communities will have to match funding dollar for dollar while smaller counties may be required to put up 25 percent as a match, she said.

Town plans

Nashville leaders submitted requests for funding to widen Hawthorne Drive and its intersection with State Road 46 East; and pave parts of Deer Lane, Dogwood Drive, Franklin Street, Jefferson Street, Johnson Street and Locust Lane.

Nashville Utility Manager Sean Cassiday said the only projects that weren’t funded were the repaving of Locust Lane and the widening of the State Road 46/Hawthorne Drive intersection.

However, INDOT did agree to fund the widening of Hawthorne Drive to three lanes, which is expected to ease congestion for a planned new music venue, the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center, in that area.

Cassiday said he’s reaching out to INDOT to understand why the intersection project wasn’t approved even though the street widening was, and how or if it might be able to be added.

Overall, Cassiday said he’s pleased with the way the town’s grant application turned out. More town road projects remain to be done after this round of funding, but if state grants continue at this pace, he said it won’t take long to get caught up on work that had to be deferred for several years.

“My hope is that out of that list, to have everything done by 2019. Then, we can sit back and maintain what we have, or save up money to work on alleys,” which are not fundable by the grant, he said.

For the past two years, the town’s MVH (motor vehicle highway) money has been going toward meeting the required local match for the Community Crossings grant.

This year, the state required only a 25 percent match, which allowed the town to do a whole lot more than it expected, Cassiday said.

The town has to have bids awarded by April. A time frame for when the paving will be done hasn’t been established, but this year’s took place in late May and June, Cassiday said.

Rethinking

Biddle said the county is in good shape when it comes to maintaining roads. When she was elected, she set a goal to pave 20 miles a year for a total of 80 after her first term. The county has paved 80 miles in three years.

Since the county won’t receive Community Crossings funding in 2018, that it will require the commissioners and Magner to go back to look at their five-year plan to make a few adjustments.

The loan the county council and commissioners are considering would be for $2 million, and the plan is for it to be “tax-neutral,” replacing another tax that will be rolling off.

The primary purposes of that loan are to replace an communications tower and add another to fix “holes” in radio coverage; replace the bleachers at the fairgrounds; and possibly fix light poles at Deer Run Park. But Biddle also mentioned using what’s left for paving Bellsville Pike.

“I don’t think it’s going to be something in the long run that’s going to be a huge setback,” she said about not getting a paving grant this year. “Let’s just call this a bump in the road.”

Road work plans

NASHVILLE

Funding request: $307,753.20

Community Crossings award: $181,082.10

Local match: $60,360.70

Work to be done:

  • Widening Hawthorne Drive from State Road 46 East to Willow Street
  • Paving Deer Lane from West Lake Drive to Dogwood Drive
  • Paving Dogwood Drive from West Lake Drive to the end
  • Paving Franklin Street from Jefferson Street to the east end
  • Paving Jefferson Street from Mound Street to State Road 135
  • Paving Johnson Street from Gould Street to Mound Street

Denied:

  • Widening the intersection of Hawthorne Drive and State Road 46 East
  • Paving Locust Lane from East Main Street to Mound Street

BROWN COUNTY

Funding request: $1.3 million

Community Crossings award: $0

Local match: $333,333.33

Denied:

  • Paving the full length of Bellsville Pike
  • Paving the full length of Helmsburg Road

County leaders plan to use capital improvement loan money to still pave Bellsville Pike in 2018, and resubmit Helmsburg Road for grant funding in 2019.

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Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.