Friday, April 12, 2024

Othello declines $400K grant due to matching requirements

| January 9, 2024 5:15 PM

OTHELLO — The Othello City Council unanimously voted to decline a $400,000 Washington Transportation Improvement Board grant during Monday’s regular meeting that would have added sidewalks to several Othello streets.

According to City Engineer Shawn O’Brien, due to the state’s classification of the project, the city’s matching fund requirement was 34% higher than anticipated.

“Last year we came to (council) and we set aside $40,000, or earmarked $40,000, to be our 10% match our $400,000 TIB grant application,” O’Brien said.

During the July 24 Othello City Council meeting in which the council voted to apply for the grant, O’Brien said the two streets the city intended to use the money for were Juniper Street and Fourth Avenue since they are higher volume streets.  

“When we submitted this project to TIB, we listed two primary streets that were right around that $440,000 cost, and then we listed some additional streets and said we want to get as much done with that $440,000 as possible,” O’Brien said. “TIB, instead of awarding us the $400,000 grant with the 10% match, awarded it as if we were going to do the whole list of projects, and that came up to about a $714,000 estimate. That was not what we budgeted for.”

If the city accepted the grant, it would have to match 44% of the $400,000, meaning the city would have to contribute $314,600, which is $275,600 more than the council budgeted for the grant when the city applied last summer. 

“The grant was awarded on a competitive basis and, most likely, we got some additional points because we were doing such a large match, which was not our intention,” O’Brien said. “We were pretty clear that, ‘Here's all the options on our collectors and arterials, and we're going to pick from this list.’”

Corey Everett suggested that the council use funds from another project in the same fund, specifically from $600,000 set aside for chip sealing city roads, to cover the additional matching funds and not lose out on the $400,000 reimbursement.

“My view on it is those sidewalks need to go in. They do. I live on Fourth (Avenue) and it's just absolutely dangerous for those kids walking. On Juniper (Street) it's the same way. I mean, its just that we have this huge opportunity for $400,000,” he said. “The streets need chip sealed, I get it. But our streets are just getting worse. The speed humps didn't slow cars down too much; they're still flying down Fourth Avenue. But that’s what I want, to take a little from that chip seal and add it to this grant.”

Mayor Shawn Logan responded to Everett. 

“I think this would be a good time to mention that our grant writer is applying for a separate grant that would pay for Fourth Avenue,” he said.

O’Brien added that one of the two original streets the city planned on adding sidewalks to, Fourth Avenue, is not actually eligible for the grant, as it does not have a federal ID number attached to it. O’Brien also said that TIB told him declining the grant would not affect the city’s chances of obtaining it again if the city reapplies for the grant next year. 

“We have other options. The reality is that we may not be able to get to these sidewalks this year. One of our tasks was to reach out to the property owners and find out who might be in support of them,” O’Brien said. “We are going to still reach out and survey everybody to see what support there is for sidewalks…It may be delayed a year, but in reality, this project was probably going to be on the outer list, after getting chip seal out, and one of the benefits of having money for the chip seal is it's a larger product; we’ll get better prices on rock and oil, because the mobilization cost gets spread out over a larger area, with larger volumes.”

Council member Genna Dorrow proposed declining the grant. 

“In the light that Fourth (Avenue) is ineligible right now for the sidewalks, I think that maybe we would be better off leaving the money in for the chip seals and getting a better price that way and then and hoping that our grant writer can get some money and that we can get (the sidewalks) done next year,” she said.

The council agreed on this plan of action and voted unanimously to decline the TIB grant. 

Gabriel Davis may be reached at Download the Columbia Basin Herald app on iOS and Android.

    Juniper Street, pictured, does not have sidewalks on both sides of the street in many areas along its path. Juniper was the intended subject of a $400,000 Washington Transportation Improvement Board grant to add sidewalks and increase safety for pedestrians, but the financial requirements were more than the city wanted to take on.
    Pictured is one of the two original streets the city of Othello planned on adding sidewalks to, Fourth Avenue, using money from a Washington Transportation Improvement Board grant. The street is not eligible for the grant, according to City Engineer Shawn O’Brien, as it does not have a federal ID number attached to it.