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Planning continues for Buckeye Fields

Planning continues for the Buckeye Fields project that will provide 64 single-unit homes for lower-income Washington County seniors.

When complete, the $9.1 million project will include the one-story modular homes and an administrative/common building on 25 acres of land near the Washington County Home.

Washington County Job and Family Services Director Flite Freimann and Rick Hindman, assistant executive director at Buckeye Hills Regional Council, decided to create a non-profit organization called Buckeye Hills Support Services to handle the project, as JFS and Buckeye Hills were both government agencies. Buckeye Hills leased the land from the Washington County Commission.

Freimann said they are trying to wrap up final construction numbers and final building plans so they can get a construction loan.

“There are a couple of things that still need to be wrapped up. One is the tap application to get on the city sewer system,” he said.

“We’re working with Reno to get on the water system. We’ve already worked with AEP to move the power line and get that extended over and we just need to finalize those last utilities.”

He said the Dominion Gas lines would need to be moved, as it “comes right where our road is going to go.”

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One concern they are handling is access to both the county home and the proposed Buckeye Fields homes.

“Both Deanna Green, the administrator of the county home, and (County Engineer) Roger Wright have had for a long time, some real concerns about the access. If you’ve been out there, it’s on a crest. It makes a curve and it’s on the crest, then Mount Tom Road and the access point are just kind of offset,” Freimann said. “We’ve been very fortunate that we have not had an accident out there. But to be frank with you, it’s more a matter of when and not if.”

He said part of the appeal of Buckeye Fields has always been that service providers and service coordinators would be brought in, as there would be 40 to 60 residents at the county home, along with 60 residents at Buckeye Fields.

“You’d be looking at at least 100, but probably closer to 120 seniors. So some of those seniors are going to be able to drive, which increases the amount of traffic out there,” he said. “But we’re going to have a whole lot more service providers, folks from Passport folks from (Adult Protective Services), folks from Meals on Wheels, folks from the O’Neill Center, all of those folks coming out there.”

He said they are trying to find a better access point into the county home for employees and for service providers.

“The FedEx truck, the Amazon truck, the CVS truck, all of those individuals can get in and out quickly without jeopardizing anybody,” he said. “And that all of the residents whether they’re at Buckeye Fields or at the county home can walk the property and not worry that they’re going to get hit.”

Green said residents and staff of the county home are looking forward to the work.

“It’s amazing. They’ve been talking they’re so excited about just the start of opportunities that are coming,” she said.

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Wesbanco, the construction loan lender, also is excited to get the project underway, but it’s been difficult to get final numbers as prices on construction materials have fluctuated, Freimann said.

“Every time we’ve gotten a quote, we get a number. Then the guy calls back the next day and says ‘I’ve got bad news, 2-by-4 prices have doubled’,” Freimann said.

They are still on track as breaking ground and building are two different concepts for the project.

“We hope to be able to still do earthwork later this fall and the prep,” he said. “And by doing modular homes offsite, one of the advantages is that in December and January, we can still be building those in Dayton, with the hopes that as spring comes with the final thaw in March, we’ll be able to set them in place. We are still on track to have the first residents moving in in June of 2022. So we feel really good about that.”

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Washington Morgan Community Action has been great to work with, as it is issuing a request for proposal for individuals to get HUD vouchers, he said.

“We’re working on both ends,” Freimann said. “Community Action is helping us with HUD vouchers, then the Ohio Housing Finance Authority has come around with a second round of tax credits. Every low income housing project in the state, all 39 of the projects that were funded, have run into the exact same issue with labor shortages and material costs.”

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Wesbanco has the construction loan and at the end of the day, the project costs will be more than the tax credits cover, he said.

“We’re talking about a 20 percent mortgage on there. So, Settlers Bank will make up that difference between the final cost of the project and what the tax credits are.

“So we’re at about $8.1 million in total construction costs, and we get about 89 cents on the dollar on the tax credits, which is actually very, very good for a first time project,” Freimann said.

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A daunting project before construction can begin is earth moving, he said.

“We’ve got a lot of earth to move. We need to build a road and that’s a lot of compacting,” Freimann said. “That land has been farmland since 1788. It has always been farmland, so that’s good in the sense that we’re able to get in there, but it has not been compacted. It’s difficult because that first six to 18 inches is really relatively soft dirt.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

At a glance:

¯ Infrastructure planning is being finalized for the Buckeye Fields project.

¯ The project will include 64 single-unit homes for Washington County seniors.

¯ The homes will be constructed on land near the Washington County Home.

Source: Times research.

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