County loan fund in short supply

LISBON — The Columbiana County Revolving Loan Fund, a low-interest loan program for small businesses, will have very little money left to lend because the village of Wellsville will not have to repay the $123,000 it was given to help repair four street intersections.

County commissioners agreed to put most of the RLF money toward the project, and county Development Director Tad Herold and county Port Authority Executive Director Penny Traina, who coordinated efforts to obtain funding for the project, expected the $123,000 to be repaid so the money could continue to be used to help local people wanting to start new businesses or assist existing small businesses interested in expanding.

The Ohio Development Services Agency, which oversees the RLF program, decided otherwise. This will leave the RLF with a balance of $19,870, according to Herold, whose office administers the RLF program operated by the county Community Improvement Corp.

“We don’t like having a balance that low, but when we’re under a directive from the state to use it ($123,0000) as leverage to obtain a larger grant for the project, the choice was obvious,” Herold said.

The CIC currently has one active loan in the amount of $25,000, with the recipient required to pay $250 per month. Herold said if a local business approaches the CIC for a loan that exceeds the new balance, they can approach the state for funding, but there is no guarantee its request would be granted.

The county has been awarded a $504,087 in federal and state grants to help cover the cost of repairing intersections on Clark and Aten avenues and 17th and Main streets in Wellsville. Commissioners also contributed $79,400 toward the project from their 2019 federal CDBG allocation, in addition to the $123,000 from the RLF program.

This brings the total funding to $706,487, nearly $200,000 more than the engineer’s estimate. Herold said the extra funding will go toward resurfacing the sections of streets between the intersections, with both projects expected to cost a combined $1.2 million.

Wellsville officials blame heavy truck traffic from major businesses in town for the deteriorated condition of the intersections, and commissioners agreed to take the lead in making the project happen. The original understanding was that in exchange for the commissioners’ help, Wellsville would contribute the first two years of any payments it receives from the negotiated agreement between the village and the companies believed responsible for the truck traffic, with the village’s match used to help repay the $123,000 RLF loan. Six of the seven companies blamed for causing the road damage agreed to each contribute $7,142 annually for the next five years, retroactive to Jan 1, 2018.

When the funding package was announced last September, Herold said the assumption was Wellsville would be required to repay the RLF money, but the state told them later that fall the village did have to since it was fiscal emergency.

Wellsville is contributing $43,600 to serve as match for receiving some of the commissioners’ CDBG allocation, with the money presumably coming from what the companies have agreed to pay.