A few of Licking County's local governments already have put together requests for a piece of the economic-stimulus package making its way through the federal government.

A few of Licking County's local governments already have put together requests for a piece of the economic-stimulus package making its way through the federal government.

"We sent ours (Heath's list) to anybody and everybody -- anyone who might have input on this," Heath Mayor Richard Waugh said.

The U.S. House of Representatives last week approved an $819-billion package known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The bill, which was approved without any Republican support, thus far includes $550-billion in spending and $275-billion in tax relief, according to the House's press summary issued Jan. 15.

The U.S. Senate's version passed through committee and has yet to be voted on, but local transportation officials watching the issue say governments are wise to put packages together now.

Sandie Mapel, technical-study director with the Licking County Area Transportation Study (LCATS), said the Senate's version shows that projects need to be "obligated" within 180 days of the bill's passage. To accomplish that, projects must be "shovel ready," meaning engineering and other federal requirements are completed and the project is ready to go to bid for construction.

Mapel said indications are that the cities and villages would have to comply with federal regulations that typically accompany federal funds, such as environmental and historical studies of a project area, which could delay a project.

On a positive note, she said, the bill does not call for a local match. Mapel said many local jurisdictions do not apply for federal funding because it is impossible to come up with local funds to support the project.

"That is an amazing thing for the locals," Mapel said. "There are many times when our local jurisdictions can't do the application. ... So many times they can't come up with a local match."

Many of the federal funds for which cities and village currently apply require a 20-percent local match. In Newark, for example, city officials know they need to replace the narrow Cherry Valley bridge near Reddington Road. Mapel said that could be a $10-million project, requiring historical studies, environmental studies and flood-plain studies. Twenty percent would be $2-million, which the city simply doesn't have.

That project, which has not had any engineering or any other work completed, probably would not be a good candidate for stimulus money, especially if the 180-day deadline goes through, Mapel said.

"You can't do engineering overnight," she said. She said many of the other studies that would be required, such as testing for endangered species in the water under the bridge, would be difficult or impossible in the winter.

"Certain things can only be done certain times of the year," she said.

Several local governments are ready to submit shovel-ready projects with potential economic impact and possible job creation. Waugh's list, for example, has at least one project that meets the criteria: building a 500,000-gallon water tower on Seminary Road to benefit existing business in the Mid-Ohio Industrial Park, thus helping to attract new businesses and more jobs. Waugh said the $1.4-million project is ready to go to bid. He said this project could be bid tomorrow and have people working on it immediately.

"We could break ground five weeks from now after going out to bid," he said.

Other projects on his list include $400,000 to replace an aging water line on Hebron Road; $650,000 of phase 1 improvements to Thornwood Drive to help with development of a 500-acre industrial site; $330,000 to connect the city's safety forces, schools and businesses through a wireless network; $250,000 to move water and sewer lines on the Hopewell Drive bridge for better fire protection and sewer collection on the city's east side; $300,000 for the Davis-Shai House renovation; $4.2-million for wastewater improvements; $6-million for phase 2 of the Thornwood Drive improvements; $550,000 for the Hopewell Drive bridge renovation; $5-million to extend Central Parkway to Irving-Wick Drive West and provide access to 300 acres of commercial property; and $175,000 to complete the city's pedestrian trail.

Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher would argue, however, that Pataskala's list also includes some important projects that meet the same criteria: shovel-ready with potential economic impact and possible job creation. One is the completion of a road connecting Broad Street to U.S. Route 40 through 525 acres of developable land east of Mink Street and south of Broad Street.

The $5-million project would involve extending two lanes south of Broad to the existing Etna Parkway at the Etna Corporate Park. Engineering and local approvals are completed, which means the project -- in Butcher's opinion -- is shovel-ready.

Pataskala's other projects proposed for economic stimulus include improvements to state Routes 310 and 16, Mink Street, Taylor Road and storm sewers in the old portion of the village.

Butcher said much of the preliminary work for those projects already has been completed -- some several years ago. Broad Street, for example, was among those needing improvements, according to a study commissioned several years ago and confirmed through the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Granville has not formalized its list, but Molly Roberts, assistant village administrator, said village officials met with LCATS this week to discuss potential projects. She said a lot of the projects would come from the village's capital-improvements plan, such as upgrades to the village's wastewater-treatment facilities, service-line upgrades and improvements to the water system.

Other projects, like extending water and sewer lines to potential new areas of development, including the River Road properties, also could be included, she said.

"Collectively, it's about $2.5-million in projects," Roberts said.

Newark also is finalizing a list.

Mapel said she met last week with city officials to discuss projects. She said she's compiling a master list of projects.

If the economic-stimulus package ultimately were approved in its current form, some of the money would be distributed through federal regulatory agencies like LCATS. Some funding would not be earmarked for specific uses, though.

State Rep. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) said of the estimated $7.3-billion Ohio could receive, $3.4-billion could be unrestricted, meaning it wouldn't be earmarked.

Gov. Ted Strickland wants the state's six-member controlling board, which is Democratic controlled, to determine how those funds would be divided.

Hottinger said the state Republicans would rather see the 132-member General Assembly determine how those funds are divided.

"That's the big debate," he said.

Mapel said the Senate could vote on the stimulus package this week, so she's working to get a master list of projects ready, especially given the most recent update on the Senate's version of the package she saw showed that 40 percent of each state's money should go to local governments.

lwince@thisweeknews.com