County receives nearly $1 million from ‘Community Crossing’ grant

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The State of Indiana — through its “Community Crossings” grant program — has awarded Switzerland County nearly $200,000 for road repair work here.

  Switzerland County Commissioner Josh South was on hand last week in Madison, where Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, State Representative Randy Frye, State Senator Chris Garten, and Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness presented checks for projects.

  At the presentation, Switzerland County was awarded $189,150.

  “That’s the second half of the Community Crossings grant. You can apply for those twice a year,” South said. “In the first piece of it, we got $783,390; and that was for two bridge replacements. This second grant is for an asphalt project on Jackson Road.”

  South said that the first grant (an entity can receive a maximum of $1 million each year, so between the two halves, Switzerland County was right at that maximum figure) was used to replace two county bridges: Bridge #10 on Jackson Road and Bridge #12 on Plum Creek Road.

  “That’s 75-percent of the total project,” South said. “These are matching grants, so we pay 25-percent of the total project. So the total we applied for in 2019 was $1,296,720, and we were awarded $972,540. We pretty much tapped that out. That’s twice a year for the two cycles. The total award can only be $1 million for the entire year, that’s why our check last week was a little smaller than the rest of them, because we got such a large amount during the first cycle.”

  This second round grant will specifically go to fix asphalt issues on Jackson Road.

  “If you drive down Jackson Road, it needs new asphalt pretty badly,” South said. “Especially right there in front of the Smith home. It’s dangerous. This is going to take care of a lot of issues on that road. It’s $250,000 worth of asphalt work, and we’re paying just 25-percent of that.”

  South said that the county has not yet bid the project out, so the next step for the Commissioners will be to meet with Switzerland County Highway Superintendent Darrell Keith and set a timeline to start the work.

  South said that Switzerland County has been awarded substantial amounts for road work through the Community Crossings grant program since the program was created.

  “Every little bit helps,” South said. “The first year that we were awarded, I think we were in the top seven or eight in the State of Indiana as far as awarded amounts, and I’d say we’re probably close to that this year, as well.”

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  State Representative Frye is very familiar with the Community Crossings grant program — he helped author the legislation.

  “Community Crossings is a part of the road funding bill that we passed in 2017,” Frye said. “It was House Enrolled Act 1002. What the bill does is that it provides grants to local governments — counties, cities, towns, any incorporated community — and the grant, depending on the size of your community, determines the size of your match.”

  It is that distinction that Frye fought for in the final wording of the bill in order to specifically impact small communities like Switzerland County and others in Southeastern Indiana.

  “I was able to get two amendments in that bill,” the Representative said. “The first one says that of the gross money, the total amount of money that’s in each grant cycle, 50-percent of it must be used in counties with a population of 50,000 or smaller, and a town of 10,000 or smaller. It has long been my opinion that the big communities absorbed all the money and nothing ever got out to us.”

  The second amendment Frye was able to get included dealt with the percentage that a community had to match in order to get the funds.

  “If you’re a large community, or a large county over 50,000 or a large town over 10,000, your match to the Community Crossings grant is 50-50,” he said. “But if you’re small like Switzerland County, your match is 25-75 — the county only has to come up with 25-percent of their grant to get the other 75-percent. Both of those have led to a lot of money coming out to Southeastern Indiana. We’ve now done four cycles of Community Crossings grants, and $27 million has come to House District 67 as a result of it. I don’t believe for one minute that most of that money would have come out there had we not gotten those two amendments in that bill; which protected the people of Southeast Indiana, and rural Indiana all across the state. My goal was to get money out to us, because it seemed like it never got here.”

  Frye said that the process of applying for a Community Crossings grant was also streamlined to make being considered for the grant program easier.

  “That’s really where Community Crossings comes from,” Frye said. “Communities apply to INDOT for a grant based on a project. They propose a project and INDOT then reviews it and awards as many of those grants as possible. It’s now a twice a year program. A community can get up to $1 million. The little town of Osgood has gotten $3 million in the last three grant cycles.”

  And, at the end of the grant cycle, it’s not lost on the State Representative that close to $1 million came here.

  “That’s Switzerland County, it’s right there in the community,” Frye said. “I don’t know how long ago it’s been since Switzerland County got that kind of money from the State of Indiana — but I think it’s probably never. I’m really proud that we were able to get that accomplished.”