In one day, Delaware County commissioners and Delaware City Council members cleared a roadblock that had stalled the multimillion-dollar Sawmill Parkway extension project for years.
On Monday, Jan. 13, council unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding that laid out the costs to the city and the county for the project. Commissioners had approved the measure earlier that day.
Delaware City Manager Tom Homan said the financial split for the project, which would extend Sawmill Parkway from Hyatts Road northwest to Section Line Road, had been the sticking point in discussions.
"For the past couple of years, we've been trying to come up with an equitable way to allocate the costs of that project," Homan said.
Under the agreement, the city would contribute about $8.46 million toward the project, which the county engineer's office estimates will cost about $56.1 million. The city's investment would represent about 15 percent of the total cost.
The city would pay 100 percent of the cost of the section of the project northwest of U.S. Route 42 and 37.5 percent of the cost of the project between the city's southern limits and Route 42.
The county would pay for 100 percent of the project outside city limits and its share of the project within city limits with existing county funds and profits from the sale of bonds. The city also will be expected to pay a portion of the interest costs associated with the bonds.
In May 2013, county officials had rejected the city's proposal to pay for 25 percent of the costs of the project within city limits. The county responded with an offer to split the costs of that portion evenly with the city, which city officials greeted unenthusiastically.
City officials have said the extension will open up land for industrial expansion and provide a major north-south thoroughfare for the region.
"A number of businesses that have wanted to locate here have not found suitable sites, shovel-ready sites as they're called," Homan said. "That's essentially because our industrial park ... is virtually full."
If new industrial employers move to the area after the project is completed, the city could reap the benefits in expanded income-tax collections.
"If we want to expand the tax base of the city and ... the county, the way to do that is through infrastructure investment," Homan said, "and that's what this project will allow us to do."
The memorandum serves as a non-binding framework for an intergovernmental development agreement that both the city and the county must approve. Homan said city and county officials hope to finalize details for the agreement within the next few months.
According to the memorandum of understanding, construction on the project is expected to begin in 2015.
Councilman Chris Jones said county officials should be applauded for their willingness to compromise with the city.
"We were roadblocked many times along the way, and I appreciate the commissioners staying positive and talking it out with us," he said.