Bellbrook residents “overwhelmingly” seek stormwater use for ARPA dollars

Residents want federal stimulus money to address flooding, give back to small businesses

Bellbrook residents were “overwhelmingly” in support of using federal stimulus dollars to address stormwater issues and flooding, in comments at a community forum Tuesday.

Discussion included addressing surface and subsurface stormwater management systems, working with communities outside Bellbrook to identify where water runoff is coming from, and conservation and awareness of stormwater issues, as Bellbrook is situated near the Little Miami and Little Sugar Creek.

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A portion of Bellbrook’s $769,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money has already been allocated to stormwater issues.

“Overwhelmingly, the concern is surface and subsurface drainage,” City Manager Rob Schommer said.

Other potential ARPA fund uses that were discussed included improvements to crosswalks and public safety, and assistance to workers and small businesses.

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The city previously said Bellbrook’s ARPA fund expenditures will be divided into two broad categories: infrastructure and “far-reaching negative economic impacts” of the pandemic. Bellbrook received its first half of the $769,000 in federal stimulus money in 2021.

Bellbrook has already allocated $250,000 of its federal stimulus money toward stormwater infrastructure projects in its 2022 budget. The city has experienced major flooding events in recent years, including the complete washout of a bridge in March 2020.

The city convened the public forum to ensure the money is being spent wisely.

“Although we’re lucky to have the $700,000, with the inflated costs, the last thing we want to do is take it and spend it and it not have lasting value to the community,” Schommer said. “We want to create projects that will meet the true needs of ARPA, create a safer community, and bring back jobs.”

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Bellbrook has also implemented a pre-storm response plan to make sure existing systems are able to handle major rain events, but the city is “excited to take a detailed look to build some permanent improvements and fixes,” Schommer added.

To fully solve Bellbrook’s stormwater problem would cost more than the city’s allocated stimulus funds, but Bellbrook is also pursuing additional revenue through the Ohio Public Works Commission and infrastructure grants.

“We will always seek to take advantage of maximizing the use of taxpayer dollars through alternative funding,” Schommer said.

The city is already in the process of designing fixes for certain areas, including the Lower Hillside neighborhood, which has been plagued by flooding problems in recent years.

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