Trustees seek residents’ input on census survey

YELLOW CREEK – Township trustee Kenny Biacco says a recent meeting with Tad Herold, the new director of the Columbiana County Development Department, has opened up new possibilities to applying for large federal and state grants.

According to Biacco, there are numerous grants that Yellow Creek presently isn’t eligible for because it doesn’t have a current survey for the U.S. Census Bureau to review. The results of such surveys are a determining factor in how government agencies decide to award funds from sources such as the Community Development Block Grant program.

“Right now, without this survey, we’re very limited on grants,” he said.

Despite the numerous grants that trustees have been able to procure over the past two years, largely from the efforts of Biacco, he stressed that these were small sums and frequently required a matching contribution on the part of the township.

“The results of the survey would determine if we could apply for some pretty big grants out there,” Biacco said. “Right now, grants are very limited. And right here, this is the key.” At the same time, he stressed that completion of the survey is no guarantee to winning these grants, only of the township’s eligibility to apply for them.

Using a formula from the Census Department, Biacco estimates that between 300 and 400 households would need to be surveyed to meet a 51 percent minimum threshold. There are 809 residential homes in the township currently.

The questions on the sample form provided during township meeting on Tuesday ask about the number of people living in the home and the combined household income. Exact numbers need not be given, but people must choose from a selection of ranges, such as, from $35,000 to $38,500, and so forth.

Board members speculated on how willing residents would be to share this information, even on a confidential form. “My question is this: Will the people of Yellow Creek Township help us there?” He expressed some skepticism, saying that during his days as a juvenile officer with the sheriff’s department, many parents refused to fill out an income form that could have made them eligible for a free court-appointed attorney.

McKenzie said that if residents are made aware of what’s at stake, they would likely respond in a positive fashion. “This will be the basis for what we are eligible for,” he said. “If they see it in the paper and they know what’s coming, and explain it to them that way, you can’t do any more than that.”

One such project to be paid for with such funds is construction of a building to store winter road mix, which trustees unsuccessfully applied for last year. At a cost of more than $17,000, the process involved applying for a Community Development Block Grant. Consideration for the CDBG funds requires up-to-date results from such a survey to be considered.

“Even if the commissioners had OK’ed it, we’d still have to go through this process,” Biacco said.

More substantially, Biacco said he had received a bid of $300,000 from an specialist engineering firm recommended by county engineer Bert Dawson to properly complete a landslide-prevention and road-widening project on Hibbett’s Mill Road. “He’s going to fix it like State Route 45,” Biacco said. “That’s the only fix he said would fix it.”

Trustees also discussed how best to conduct such a survey, including sending the form by mail, going door-to-door with forms or asking residents to come into the township hall to fill the form out. “I’m willing myself to come here on Saturdays, if people would stop by. It would take five minutes a person,” Biacco said.

For now, board members are soliciting feedback from township residents on how they would prefer to have the survey carried out.