Austin board seeks loan to fund landscape upgrades

A group overseeing the Austin Boulevard/Interstate 75 interchange plans to spend more than $500,000 on landscaping improvements and finance them with a state loan.

The Austin Center Joint Economic Development District Board of Directors had heard proposals costing as much as $1.6 million. But it is aiming to cap spending on this phase of the plan at $600,000 and seek a low-interest loan through the State Infrastructure Bank.

The board has for months been wrestling with how best to spruce up the Interstate 75 gateway for Miamisburg, Miami Twp. and Springboro without going overboard on spending taxpayer money.

“Significant enhancements make the interchange look a lot better, but it was a little more expensive than we would like,” said Austin Center JEDD Chairman Steve Stanley, executive director of the Montgomery County Transportation Improvement District.

The Austin Center JEDD collects income and hotel/motel taxes and shares them among the three communities.

The JEDD board initially budgeted $300,000 this year for the landscaping improvements, but later generally agreed to increase spending because increasing tax revenue could support a desire to focus more on the interchange’s aesthetics.

Over several months the board heard a variety of proposals from landscape architect Lynne Nischwitz of The Kleingers Group. A recent proposal – at $1.4 million – gave board members like Miami Twp. Administrator Greg Rogers “sticker shock” and the board is now looking to spend less than half of that amount.

“I think we’ve come to a good conclusion,” Rogers said.

As a result, the landscaping upgrades will be scaled back and the infields’ on- and off-ramps will not be included in this phase of the plan.

The board plans to finance the upgrades through a loan through the SIB, which is run through the Ohio Department of Transportation. The program charges no interest for the first year and 3 percent the remaining years up to a decade, Stanley said.

An SIB loan was used to finance the Byers Road upgrades, Stanley said.

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