City streets could see big improvement from INDOT funds

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By Rachel Christian

The Community Crossings Grant, a statewide program focused on improving the roadways of local communities, awarded a generous sum to the Mount Vernon Street Department last year to help complete work on Third St., Tenth St. and other high-priority projects.

The city wants to apply for the grant again this year. With the deadline less than a week away, Street Department Superintendent Max Dieterlecame before the City Council to request $333,333.

A major difference between this year’s and last year’s grant applications is Mount Vernon now qualifies for an even larger sum of money, $1.3 million.

After revisions during the most recent Indiana legislative session, the city is now eligible for a 25/75 grant, a step up from the 2016 50/50 grant.

That would mean receiving as much as $1 million from the state and would, according to Mayor Bill Curtis, “put the city years ahead on paving projects.”

The mayor acknowledged that state grant programs are notorious for shortchanging or only awarding a portion of applied grant requests.

“We may not get all the money we asked for, but if we do – as we did this year – we want to make sure that we have the money on our end to back it up.” Curtis said.

Both Curtis and Dieterlespoke to the need in the city for ample paving funds.

“I already have 30 projects ready to go once we get this grant money, projects that need to be done,” the street superintendent said.

Council members such as Larry Williams voiced some concerns over what would happen if the city did not receive any money from the Community Crossings grant, or only a small percentage of what Mount Vernon qualifies for. He asked what would happen to the city’s long to-do list of paving roadwork.

Curtis remained optimistic about Mount Vernon’s likelihood of receiving the funds, stating that it was “money the state really wants to give away.”

The Community Crossings Matching Grant program launched in 2016 as a partnership between INDOT and Indiana communities, both urban and rural, to invest in infrastructure projects that spur economic development and strengthen local transportation networks.

The grant can be awarded to cities and counties for any of the following projects: road and bridge preservation, road reconstruction, intersection improvements, small structure replacements, guardrail replacements and signs.

Last year, Community Crossings awarded $49 million statewide.  0ver $1.56 million made its way Posey County and three of its towns, including $447,434 for Mount Vernon, $60,876 for Cynthiana, $43,665 for New Harmony and $1 million for the County Highway Department.

The Council unanimously supported the measure to appropriate the city’s 25 percent portion of $333,333 to the Community Crossings Fund.

Curtis said the city has enough money in its general fund to pay for the expense, and can also access money from other funds, such as COIT and EDIT, if it needs to.

Dieterle submitted the grant application July 11, and said he expects to hear back from the state within the next two months.