As funding dwindles from the state, Orange Township has become creative in finding money through grants. In nine years the township has been awarded almost $5 million in grants for parks and roads improvements.
“The local government fund was done away with two years ago,” said trustee Debbie Taranto. “We’ve been creative and we’ve been aggressive.”
The township has written 21 grants with all of them awarded except for three which allowed the township to construct a little over 13 miles of trails, Orange Park and the pedestrian bridge over US 23, Glen Oak playground and improvements to the Orange Road intersection at US 23 and Green Meadow Road.
“We were almost awarded $50,000 in a sign grant,” said Beth Hugh, township director of parks and roads. “It was in reference to the retro reflectivity requirement” for street signs.
Hugh said she is the face of parks and roads at township meeting, but supported by a team.
“I have a team behind me,” she said. Bragging about the 13 miles of trails, she added, “I don’t think Liberty or Genoa are close to that.”
Part of the team behind Hugh is Scott Overturf, owner of RPO LLC, an independent contractor hired by the township to co-author grants with Hugh. He also oversees township projects from design to completion. “I’m the owners’ rep,” he said.
“Scott is also involved with me at the beginning in the design phase. He is the second set of eyes to catch the details,” Hugh said. “Having Scott also saves us a lot of engineering fees. Instead of having an engineer design every inch of the trail, we can use 60 percent drawings which are significantly cheaper.”
Overturf began writing grants for the township in 2008. His first was from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that help pay for the Orange Road East Bike Trail.
“We were missing out,” said Overturf. “Nobody was taking the initiative that there was money out there.”
“It’s money already on the table,” Hugh added.
Taranto said applying for grants is the responsible thing to do for the taxpayers.
“It makes tax dollars go so much further,” she said. “Last year we were able to reduce the tax levy by .5 mill because we have been so successful and done so much.”
Overturf said for him to write a grant it cost about $5,936.
Taranto made a quick calculation. “So $53,424 over the course of nine years has brought in $5 million,” said Taranto. “We’ll look at it that way.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.