Walking into money: Safe Routes funds bump Wapak total to nearly $1 million

For the past two years, the city of Wapakoneta’s general fund expenditures totaled approximately $4 million, and in the past two years, the city has gained nearly $1 million in Safe Routes to Schools grant money — an impressive number to two city leaders.

Councilors-at-large Dan Graf and Tom Finkelmeier Jr. pointed out those grants represent nearly 25 percent of the city’s annual $2 million general fund budget, which pays primarily for safety-services and roads.

“The Safe Routes to Schools grant award is great news for the city,” Graf, who chairs the Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee, said prior to Wednesday’s meeting. “This means we will be able to continue our efforts to provide safe pedestrian right-of-ways through the city.

“I am encouraged by the fact we will have obtained in excess of $900,000 in sidewalks and signals and other items — all involving and taking into consideration the safety of all pedestrians,” he said. “It is great because it is for the safety of the pedestrians that we get them off the street as well as for the well-being of the drivers who no longer have to worry about people walking on the street.”

City administrators learned in the past week the city is to receive $477,000 from the program to install sidewalks. This latest round would be to install sidewalks along Laurel  Street Gardenia, Magnolia, Primrose, Poppy and Carnation drives.

The city earlier received $434,000 in Safe Routes to School grant money to construct sidewalks from Wapakoneta High School and Wapakoneta Middle School along Redskin Trail and through Bramblewood Estates.

“I just can’t believe we have been awarded that much and this is the second phase and we expect their to be a third phase and we talked about applying for that,” Graf said. “We will apply until the funds dry up.”

Graf anticipates people will object to the streets planned for sidewalks, but he and Finkelmeier noted they are part of the plans approved earlier by the state. Finkelmeier remarked those plans can be found online.

“I expect some push back from the residents, but they need to remember we are not going on their property because these sidewalks will be put on the city right-of-way,” Graf said. “That being the case, we don’t have any eminent domain issues or any property the city has to obtain to put the sidewalks in.”

Finkelmeier also commented on the total amount of grant dollars the Wapakoneta Engineering Department has obtained from state and federal sources.

With the Scrap Tire Grant award of $97,703 to pave Douglas, Wagner and Rauthland streets and $62,900 for Community Development Block Grant for additional American with Disabilities Act curb ramps brings the total of $637,603 this year.

The city also was awarded $330,000 in Issue 1 grant money last year for East Benton Street reconstruction, which just started.

Finkelmeier said the Engineering Department of Superintendent Mary Ruck and staff — Andy Beane, Alicia Webb and Jim Harpest — bring in money equaling at least 50 percent of the city’s general fund budget in the past few years. He reflected on East Benton Street projects and the Bellefontaine Street project and upcoming projects for East Auglaize Street.

“They are doing a fabulous job,” Finkelmeier told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “They deserve a lot of credit.”