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Action coming to Harmar Bridge

Photo by Janelle Patterson

Busy Bee Restaurant owner Larry Sloter was named Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Historic Harmar Bridge Company on Tuesday in the latest course correction to refurbish the privately-owned historic landmark used and beloved of the public.

“We’ve got the people in place with our current board and our current committees that man I’m excited about what the next six months are going to bring– let alone what the next two years are going to bring,” said Sloter, 41, of Devola. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I was not positive that we can pull it off and I wouldn’t have accepted the chairman position if we weren’t on the path to having all of the previous issues corrected. So I’m confident that everything is going in the right direction.”

Nonprofit status

One correction the chairman spoke about was a past lapse in the group’s nonprofit status as a 501c3, noted in Times discussions with the board’s visioning committee members in the fall of 2020.

“We have retained Perry and Associates to perform all the necessary paperwork and tax returns,” explained Sloter, nodding to the local accounting firm. “They’ve been working on that for the last couple of months, everything is due to be submitted probably next week, to get all of that finalized so it can be reinstated.”

One benefit, he said, of having partnered with the downtown nonprofit Marietta Main Street in early 2020 is that fundraising performed in tandem with the nonprofit last year is protected from tax liability.

President of the Board Chuck Swaney explained in the board’s meeting Tuesday that the Marietta Community Foundation is currently holding $20,446.78 in the joint account between the bridge company and the nonprofit.

The bridge was closed in March of last year due to safety concerns, at the same time as the launch of the joint partnership between the company and the nonprofit.

Sloter and Swaney explained that those funds are separate from the board’s checking and savings account funds of $5,112.14 and $5,411.09 respectively, and another $600 yet to be deposited from purchases of mugs during this month’s downtown Marietta ice carving event.

Sloter said work with Perry and Associates will aid the board of directors in answering what tax liability, if any, falls upon the group for the remaining dollars raised before 2020.

Rowing and Cycling proposal

Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club members George Banziger and Paul Lewis presented to the board of directors Tuesday a similar proposal that they had put before Marietta City Council last week.

The pair proposed to council last week that the city provide a letter of support for an Ohio Department of Transportation grant application for $1.6 million in Ohio Transportation Alternatives Program funding.

TAP funding is in-part sourced, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, through the federal Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program run by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.

According to the two federal agencies, the program “helps states fund a variety of activities related to improving transportation assets, including on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, environmental mitigation, and creating or improving recreational trails projects.”

Sloter explained that Banziger and Lewis while acting in step with the urgency of a grant application deadline this month, are to be utilized for their experience in grant writing moving forward with direction from the board.

Board Director Jackson Patterson, who also separately serves as chairman of the lower west side’s neighborhood group, Main Street West, cautioned the board out of thinking so narrow as to consider the bridge asset only one used for recreational purposes and focused his emphasis on the needs it serves the city’s residents and businesses, too.

What’s next

¯ Marietta City Council discussions

Today Marietta City Council’s joint committee between Lands, Buildings and Parks (chaired by Councilman Bill Farnsworth, D, at-large) and Finance (chaired by Councilman Mike Scales, D, first ward) will again review the TAP proposal.

That joint committee would then determine whether the legislators will advance a resolution to a special council business meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

If they do advance that resolution, they would prospectively be considering for a vote Thursday the authorization of:

1. A letter of support for the application.

2. Authorizing Mayor Josh Schlicher to act as the state government’s point of contact for the city to pass state dollars through to the bridge company.

Swaney said he and Sloter plan to attend the special meeting Thursday to present before council the unified proposal.

¯ Pier inspection

Separate from the grant proposal, the bridge company is also looking forward to a safety-related inspection.

“We want those piers inspected as soon as possible and the sooner the better because the water is more clear now than it’s going to be after we get spring rains and spring floods,” explained Sloter.

The board is still pursuing questions on how to access the awarded $50,000 state funds from the Capital Budget released last month.

Swaney said he is still learning that process of reimbursement and what the state needs of the bridge company in order to pay for the inspection.

He reported to the board that three quotes for pier inspection have now been sent to consulting engineers and Sloter plans to work with Derek Buell, an architect who sits on the visioning committee, to determine comparisons in those three bids ranging between $10,000 and $40,000 for the work.

“What we’ve been told is it’s better to mobilize and go in as soon as possible so we will try to move this along,” Sloter added. “As soon as we get the recommendations back (from engineers including Washington County Engineer Roger Wright and Marietta City Engineer Joe Tucker).”

¯ Planning, engineering and design grant pursuit

Sloter said with the onus on city council to decide support or not of the TAP application, the company is now also free to pursue additional funding from potential partnerships with the Wood-Washington-Wirt Interstate Planning Commission, Washington County Health Department (Creating Healthy Communities program), the Ohio Arts Council, federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds and other ODOT and state health funding including programs focused on safe routes to nutrition, school and healthcare; while also considering opportunity with city council which is in the midst of new review for three-year consolidated planning of its federal Community Development Block Grant program.

“We’ve also been contacted by SOPEC which is the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council,” noted Sloter. “They don’t have funds available but they’re putting us in contact with the Recreation Council of Appalachia and other organizations throughout Southeast Ohio that have done similar projects. Really a lot of what we’re trying to do now is finding other organizations that have applied for different monies in different ways, where can we learn from them what we don’t know?”

The board of directors also unanimously voted to accept nominations of Jedd Butler and Charlotte Keim to fill voting director positions on the newly organized leadership, and unanimously approved the appointment of voting ex-officio directors representing Marietta’s second and fourth wards from Marietta City Council in addition to an appointee of Marietta Main Street and the Southeast Ohio Port Authority.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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