Commissioners wary of deal to share Sawmill Parkway costs
Plan calls for county to pay for 75 percent of cost to extend road into city
An extension of Sawmill Parkway could provide an economic boost to the city of Delaware -- if it gets the go-ahead from local officials.
The proposed $50 million project would extend Sawmill Parkway from its current terminus at Hyatts Road north to South Section Line Road in Delaware and make way for the expansion of the city's industrial park.
But before it's approved, officials in Delaware County and the city of Delaware must negotiate a cost-sharing plan for the portion of the road that would fall within Delaware city limits.
This week, county commissioners expressed reservations about a funding proposal recently put forward by city officials.
The 1.5-mile stretch within the city of Delaware would consume about a third of the project's overall budget, or roughly $15.5 million.
Under the plan, the city would split that cost with the county, paying for $3.8 million -- one-quarter of the cost.
That's because a recent study indicated just one-fourth of the estimated traffic on that stretch would originate in Delaware, said city spokesman Lee Yoakum.
He said the project would be an economic boon for the city, opening up about 1,600 acres of land for the expansion of the city's industrial parks, including the creation of 3,000 jobs.
"Our current industrial park is about 75 percent full and we're running out of available developable land," he said.
The city also would contribute $7 million to install sewer and water infrastructure along Sawmill Parkway, and roughly $20 million for industrial-park roadways that would be constructed along the route.
Yoakum said the road would benefit the area as an alternate route for north and southbound traffic, relieving some congestion.
He added the city hopes a deal can be reached soon so construction can begin this year.
But Commissioner Ken O'Brien said the city must contribute more to get his approval. He said the city should fund all construction costs for the stretch of Sawmill Parkway in city limits.
"The county has a limited amount of resources and we have to utilize it in the best way for the whole county," he said. "That doesn't mean we shouldn't sit down and chat, because I think it's important to be creative in meeting their needs in being able to afford the road."
O'Brien and Commissioner Dennis Stapleton both said they aren't sure if the parkway extension should take priority over other infrastructure projects, such as improvements to the interchange at Interstate 71 and U.S. Route 36/state Route 37.
Stapleton said he's not convinced that the proposed 25 percent-75 percent split is fair, but pledged to keep an open mind.
"We have a good working relationship with the city and we want to help in any way that's possible," he said. "I don't know that I'd be so bold as to say we will do it sometime this year, but I'm open to it."
Commissioner Gary Merrell said he'll see how negotiations go before deciding what's the right balance for sharing the cost.
"I ran (for office) and stated very clearly during the election that I thought we should finish it, and I still feel that way, but first both parties, the city and the county, will talk through the issues," he said.
Another study currently in progress has the potential to spur on an agreement, as city officials said it will quantify the economic benefits of industrial expansion along Sawmill Parkway.
Last month, the city announced it received grants totaling $10,000 to fund the study, which was recommended by a Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce joint task force.
Chamber President Holly Quaine said the study will quantify the potential for tax revenue if Sawmill Parkway is extended.
"It will hopefully help the commissioners justify their part in building this project," she said. "We talk about economic development, so we want to be able to give some real teeth to those numbers."