Olentangy Valley News

Powell, townships join forces to woo grants for schools

Proposal asks for $344,000 to improve four Olentangy school buildings

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Local officials hope a team effort to seek grant funds leads to a big score for four elementary schools in the Olentangy Local School District.

Officials in Powell and in Liberty and Orange townships have been working for more than a year on a federal Safe Routes to School grant proposal with Delaware County and school district officials.

The group must submit its proposal, which requests $344,000 for infrastructure improvements at Alum Creek, Glen Oak, Oak Creek and Tyler Run elementary schools, by early March. The group also is seeking $30,000 for educational programs and additional law-enforcement services in school zones.

Nancy Shapiro, assistant health commissioner at the Delaware General Health District, has taken the lead on coordinating the group's efforts. She said the funding, if awarded, will improve the area for all residents, not just students.

"The more infrastructure improvements you do, the more walkable and bikeable your community becomes," she said.

Although the numbers are not final, both Tyler Run Elementary School in Powell and Oak Creek Elementary School in Lewis Center would see more than $100,000 in improvements under the current request proposal.

Potential improvements at Oak Creek Elementary School include:

• installation of speed-limit signs with flashing beacons on Westwood Drive.

• widening and reconstruction of the sidewalk on Oak Creek Drive.

• installation of bike racks at the school.

Potential improvements at Tyler Run Elementary School include:

• installation of speed-limit signs with flashing beacons at Salisbury Drive.

• reconstruction of curb ramps at Salisbury Drive's intersections with Stamford, Manchester and Tiller drives.

• installation of bike racks at the school.

Glen Oak Elementary School in Lewis Center could see new speed-limit signs and crosswalk markings at Blue Holly Drive. Alum Creek Elementary School in Lewis Center could see improvements to curb ramps and signs on Parklawn Drive.

All of the proposed improvements were taken from a travel plan completed by the school district in 2010. The plan was created through the district's research and resident surveys.

The Safe Routes to Schools Infrastructure Committee last met Friday, Jan. 17, to work on its application.

Orange Township officials agreed to be the financial agent for the project because the majority of the money requested would be spent within the township.

The Ohio Department of Transportation would provide all of the 20-percent match for the projects, but Shapiro said the group can improve its chances of receiving funding by earmarking local match funds.

One detail the local governments and agencies still are hammering out is what local match funds will be provided. Liberty Township has agreed to put $7,000 toward the project, with additional match funding amounts expected to be announced in the coming months by Powell, Orange Township, Olentangy schools and the PTOs at each elementary school.

The committee also discussed whether it should request scooter racks in addition to bike racks for the schools. Jennifer Mazza, principal at Tyler Run, said as many as 40 students use scooters to get to school, leading school officials to seek some kind of storage solution.

In addition to providing safe routes for scooters, bikes and pedestrians, Shapiro said another goal of the program is to encourage exercise among students.

"You expend a lot of energy scooting yourself to school," she said.

Shapiro said the process of preparing for the grant has been a stellar example of cooperation among government entities.

"It's just been a joy to work with everyone," she said. "We've had no trouble getting everyone to sit down and talk."

Liberty Township Administrator Dave Anderson said it's possible for a single government entity to win funding through the program, but the cooperation on display should aid the local group's application.

"We've got multiple government agencies (working together), which will be very helpful," he said.

The grant program will announce its funding recipients in May. If the local group receives funding, construction projects could begin in 2016.

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