Northland News

Northland, Northwest leaders want UIRF boundaries expanded

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City officials recently announced the parceling out of $6.8 million under the Urban Infrastructure Recovery Fund Program for 44 projects in a variety of neighborhoods.

The projects included proposals from residents and civic groups, funneled through area commissions, for new sidewalks, streetlights, brick crosswalks and planted medians.

Conspicuous by their absence were any projects on the Northwest Side or in the Northland area.

That's not, as it might have seemed on first blush, because those areas are not represented by city-sanctioned and funded area commissions.

The Northwest Civic Association and Northland Community Council both serve in the same capacity as area commissions.

Rather, the UIRF program is available to parts of the city within limited boundaries, mostly neighborhoods closer to downtown.

The program to pay for neighborhood-based capital improvement projects was created by Mayor Michael B. Coleman in 1992, when he was the youngest member of City Council.

It is primarily limited to the city's pre-1950s boundaries, according to Northland Community Council Development Committee Chairman Dave Paul.

That excludes all of the Northwest Side and virtually the entire Northland area.

"I think I understand why that is," said John Ehlers, president of the Northwest Civic Association board of directors. "When you have problems that arise, some areas get hit a little harder, so you need to have investment proportional to the level of need.

"Unfortunately, a lot of other areas get overlooked when you prioritize by that,"he said.

"Obviously, things can change," Paul said.

In fact, Ehlers said he spoke with Susan DeLay, director of the program for the city, and she indicated officials would be open to a request to seek a way to expand the territory within which UIRF money can be used for capital projects.

Ehlers said DeLay invited the Northwest Civic Association to compose a letter formally making that request for the next round of UIRF applications, which won't be until 2014.

"Which I think we probably will do," Ehlers added.

"That's good to know," Paul said.

NCC President Emmanuel Remy would also welcome an expansion of the UIRF area.

"I actually looked over the list and thought to myself, 'we have our own sets of issues that are important to the city.' That's why we're lobbying all the time and building relationships so we're not forgotten," he said.

"We're a critical part of the city of Columbus," Remy said. "If we feel forgotten, we could easily have issues that could be problematic.

"That's something I want to address and speak with people at City Council to see if we can expand those boundaries or find other sources of income," Remy said.

The $6,887,500 "is a pretty good chunk of change," Ehlers said, and it would have been nice if the Northwest Side could have been included in seeking some of that money in previous funding cycles.

He mentioned specifically adding sidewalks along Godown Road in the vicinity of Centennial High School as a project that might have happened far earlier than next year.

Ehlers praised the way in which the application process for the Urban Infrastructure Recovery Fund Program was handled this time around, with citizens' groups encouraged to come up with ideas for projects.

"I think that's a great idea," Ehlers said.

"The people who are walking the streets and living in the area know what needs the most important support, and the same is true in our area," he said.

"We have needs in the community, and it's always the citizens who bring those things to our attention."

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