Senate Bill 299 to help fix Belmont County roads

BELMONT COUNTY, Ohio (WTRF) - Monetary help for counties in Ohio that saw severe flooding earlier this year is on its way. 

Governor Kasich signed Senate Bill 299 into law on Wednesday, which includes more than $7 million that will help counties in southeast Ohio secure disaster relief funding. 

That money will also help Belmont County, which has been working to receive that funding. 

The roads and the bridges tell the story of just how hard the county has been hit by flooding this year.

"You never budget for disasters," said Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas. "Money's tight to begin with, so even from a county level, we don't budget for any type of disasters because we hope we don't have them."

Since those disasters caused flooding across Belmont County, officials have been trying to find money for FEMA match funds in the budget because the agency only pays 75 percent of the money. 

 "The remaining 25 percent of the damages is split between the state ad the locals, the locals being the counties in this case," explained Belmont County Engineer Terry Lively.  "Senate Bill 299 picks up the locals share, so the state is essentially picking up the remaining 25 percent." 

For Belmont County, that's around $760,000

Once the match funds are paid and FEMA money is available, they'll repair county roads damaged by slips and slides. 

"We're not responsible for slips on private property," Lively continued.  "We're not responsible for the slips on the township roads. These take care of any damage that we had on county highways, county bridges and also township bridges.") 

This FEMA money won't cover all of the damage. Belmont County also is looking for more funding from federal highways, which has a similar set-up to FEMA, paying 80% of the money. 

"It's up to the locals to come up with the other 20 percent," Lively said. "Wee still have the 20 percent to come up with on the federal highways projects. Right now the numbers are looking like about $1.1 million in local share federal highways projects.") 

Both Thomas and Lively said once work begins, these FEMA funds will benefit the entire county, because damage was widespread. 

 "Any money that the state gives us, and especially our cities and villages and townships, is money that those entities don't have to take out of their budget," Thomas added. 

Ohio State Senator Frank Hoagland, who pushed for the disaster relief funding to be included in the bill released a statement on the signing. It reads:

"I am thankful for the swift action of Senate President Larry Obhof and other state and local leaders who helped move this effort through the legislature. Over the course of the last few months I have witnessed the devastation these storms have had on our roads and bridges, and it's been a priority of mine to help make Ohio's roadways safer for the traveling public." 

Lively also told 7News that because of the flooding in recent weeks in areas like Neffs, he will also be applying for funding from Ohio Public Works. 

As far as when repairs could begin, Lively said right now the county has identified projects for the FEMA funding, and is waiting to determine how many of the projects will be covered and the total amount Belmont County will receive. 

He also added that all the damage has caused years worth of work, but the county will be working as fast as it can to repair it, starting with roads that are currently shut own. 

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