A decayed water pipe from the Village of St. Clairsville, one of the recipients of an Ohio BUILDS grant to repair infrastructure.
The Great Lakes Rural Community Assistance Program (RCAP), a non-profit program operated by Great Lakes Community Action Partnership (GLCAP), has successfully helped another 15 communities across the state secure grant funds totaling over $18 million through the Ohio Broadband, Utilities, and Infrastructure for Local Development Success (BUILDS) program.
Awards from the third and final BUILDS round were announced by Governor DeWine’s office on Dec. 9.
Over the course of three funding rounds that began in late October, the Ohio Department of Development in consultation with Ohio EPA selected 183 projects for these grants, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). It awarded $250 million in grant funding to water and sewer projects, including at least one project in every county.
Great Lakes RCAP provides free technical assistance, grant writing services, and training to small water and sewer systems across a seven-state region that includes Ohio. RCAP’s rural development specialists worked with these communities to plan and secure financing for critical water and sewer projects, including connecting them to eligible state and federal programs and, in most cases, preparing their applications.
With the announcement of these one-time Ohio BUILDS awards, many of these projects will be able to proceed with bidding and construction over the next year. Several have been years in the making and will finally be able to move forward.
Sherry Loos, RCAP regional training and outreach coordinator, led the program in Ohio over the past four years and reflected on the success of the RCAP team to help 29 communities this fall secure a combined $67 million in grants through Ohio BUILDS. These projects are expected to result in over $116 million of local infrastructure improvements, benefitting nearly 40,000 residents.
“It’s exciting. This will probably be our best year ever helping small communities and rural counties obtain grants for their water and sewer projects,” Loos said. “It’s rare to help so many secure so much grant. There was lots of competition for this special funding. We were able to mobilize our communities and share the latest news, guidance, and application procedures among our staff to make sure our applications were as competitive as possible. Most of the systems we help are serving poor and working-class communities. Although we are often very successful in helping them obtain partial grant funding, it wouldn’t be possible in a normal year to achieve such a high percentage of grant funding for many of these projects.”
RCAP team members Pam Ewing, Kurtis Strickland, Misty Tolzda, Roberta Streiffert, Ben Howard and Sandy Kessler were all successful in helping villages, small cities and rural county water and sewer districts achieve grant awards. For a majority of the projects, they had already secured partial funding from other state and federal programs.
RCAP’s successful projects in the Ohio BUILDS grant rounds include the Village of Adelphi, Village of Barnesville, Village of Beaver, Village of Coal Grove, City of Crestline, Village of Fayette, Village of Fredericksburg, Village of Grover Hill, Village of Hamler, Village of Hayesville, Village of Hicksville, Harrison County — Freeport Village, City of Jackson, Village of Laurelville, Lorain County Rural Wastewater District — Cinnamon Lakes, Village of Malvern, Village of Matamoras, Morgan Meigsville Rural Water District, Village of Morral, Village of New Waterford, Ohio & Lee Water and Sewer Authority, Village of Perrysville, Preble County - Glenwood area, Village of Russells Point, Village of Spencer, City of St. Clairsville, Swancreek Water District in Fulton County, Syracuse Racine Regional Sewer District, Village of Warsaw, and Washington County’s Devola area.
RCAP is supported by state and federal funding through the Ohio Water Development Authority, Ohio EPA, USDA, HHS, USEPA and other sources to provide professional services at little or no cost to public water and sewer systems serving fewer than 10,000 people. Generally, these systems are not large enough to have regular, full time professional staff who can be dedicated to develop and find funding capital projects. RCAP is there to help them.
“Many small systems will only have a major capital project every few years. Local staff in these communities often wear many hats, or with turnover, they will not have folks with the expertise to stay on top of and navigate through the various funding programs that may be available to them,” Ms. Loos explained. “Water and sewer customer expenses have been increasing at a rate faster than inflation for several years now, in part because some systems kept their customer rates very low for in the ’80s and ’90s by deferring maintenance and failing to save for future replacement projects. Many local leaders now have to address problems that were decades in the making before they began serving in leadership positions. Funding opportunities like these give them a chance to catch up and provide some financial relief for their residents.”
RCAP, coordinated nationally through the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, and has been serving small communities and rural areas in Ohio and throughout the Great Lakes region for more than 40 years. More information about Great Lakes RCAP free and low-cost services and training is available at www.glcap.org/rcap.