By MAX FILBY
WASHINGTON — Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik and Safety-Service Director Paul Schmelzer discussed updates and funding of the Findlay flood-control project with officials in Washington this week.
Mihalik and Schmelzer met with U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown on Wednesday, and Republican Sen. Rob Portman on Thursday.
Mihalik said it had been a while since she and Schmelzer were able to update officials in Washington on the flood-control project and talk about pursuing federal funding to help pay for construction.
“That was the heart of the conversations,” Mihalik said Thursday.
Mihalik’s and Schmelzer’s meetings with Brown, Portman and Latta came as the legislators are preparing to meet with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers next week. Mihalik said the three lawmakers all have been helpful in pushing the Findlay project forward.
“Communities in Hancock and Putnam counties deserve the security of knowing their homes and businesses won’t have to withstand another flooding of the Blanchard River,” Brown said. “I commend Mayor Mihalik and Mr. Schmelzer’s continued commitment to this important project. I will continue to work with the Ohio delegation to urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize this project.”
Brown said he supported changes made to the Army Corps’ plan in August that resulted from feedback received during a comment period. The Army Corps eliminated a proposed levee that would have caused flooding of farmland outside of Findlay. An Eagle Creek diversion channel remains as the major component of the corps’ plan in Hancock County.
The corps is expected to release a “chief’s report” in April or May. The report is necessary for the city and county to seek federal funding from Congress for construction of the $60 million project.
The three legislators are “going to continue to put pressure on the (Army Corps) so we can make sure we get the report early next year,” Mihalik said Thursday.
The city and county want the federal government to fund 65 percent, or $39 million of the construction cost, she said. The Hancock County commissioners could pay the remaining 35 percent, which amounts to $20.5 million, with revenue from a current quarter-percent county sales tax, she said.
The city and county also intend to apply for grants for the project, Mihalik said.
In a letter Monday to the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District, Mihalik asked the district to take over local administration of the flood project. The Hancock County commissioners are now the non-federal sponsor of the project.