LISBON - Communities in Columbiana County are to receive an estimated $3 million this year in combined funding from the Ohio Department of Transportation to help maintain state routes that run through those areas.
The amounts range from $4,928 for the tiny village of Summitville to $417,115 expected to be received by the city of Salem. Townships also receive some of the money, which is from a portion of the state gas tax and distributed based on a formula.
The issue of maintaining state routes has been a recent topic at East Liverpool City Council meetings, where some officials have suggested turning over to ODOT 100 percent responsibility for maintenance of state routes that run through the city by de-annexing those portions to Liverpool Township.
Tom Corey is the highway management administrator for ODOT's District 11, which includes the county. He said since Ohio is a home-rule state, cities and villages have the option of deciding whether they want state routes to officially be part of their communities, and in doing so agree to share in the basic maintenance costs.
Corey said basic maintenance includes such things as traffic signals, street lights, filling potholes and cracks, cutting down weeds, mowing grass, addressing drainage issues, and some road and speed limit signs.
"We're responsible for the major things," such as resurfacing the state routes, with the city and village usually covering 20 percent of the cost, he said. "The major stuff we definitely get involved in, like landslides."
Although cities in these agreements are still responsible for snow-plowing of state routes within city limits, Corey said they generally help out by keeping the blades down on their way through town. For example, ODOT drivers continue plowing on state Route 11 once they enter East Liverpool and after turning south onto state Route 7 in the city's west end.
"We don't have a formal agreement to do that. We just do it as we're traveling through," he said.
In the agreements with villages, ODOT agrees to plow state routes within corporation limits, such as state Route 45 and U.S. Route 30 in Lisbon. "In all of the villages, to my knowledge, we perform snow and ice control on the state routes," Corey said.
While the money received by communities is supposed to be for maintaining state routes, ODOT does not require any proof that is being done. State law requires 92.5 percent of the money go into the city or village street department budgets, where it can be used as local officials see fit within the broad definition of street maintenance.
"We have no control over what they do with the money. I know that's been the debate over the years," said District 11 communications officer Becky Giauque. "We had one community that was using the money to purchase Christmas decorations."
As for de-annexation of state routes from a city or village, Corey can see the benefits. "If they turn that over to us they would be getting rid of a lot of headaches and they would get to keep the funding, from my understanding," he said. "They're in a win-win situation from my perspective."
De-annexations do not happen often. Corey said the last one he can recall occurred in the mid 2000s in Martins Ferry, which de-annexed the section of Route 7 that runs through the Ohio River village. He said officials did this despite losing revenue from their police writing traffic tickets on that busy stretch of road.