Commissioners approve loans: Franklin County Commissioners approved three loans totaling $1.7 million on Tuesday for suburbs to complete infrastructure projects intended to boost economic development.
Infrastructure upgrades in Upper Arlington, Marble Cliff and Whitehall will start soon with those funds, which are the first to be distributed through a revolving loan program the county established using some of the money from a sales tax increase in 2013.
“Those sales tax dollars aren’t just disappearing into thin air,” said James Schimmer, the county’s economic development and planning director. “They’re being made to work to generate more dollars for economic development.”
Under the loans approved Tuesday, Upper Arlington will receive $1 million to install more fiber optic cable, Marble Cliff will receive $125,000 for a new water line, and Whitehall will receive $550,000 for construction on Hamilton Road. The loans carry a 1.7 percent interest rate and must be repaid over 10 years.
All three projects also are receiving state money.
When commissioners agreed to raise the sales tax in 2013 to help pay for a new jail and morgue, they said some of the money would be set aside for economic development projects. Since then, they have announced plans for the infrastructure bank, workforce development grants and green-energy projects.
The county is earmarking about $3.5 million a year over four to five years for the revolving loan fund. Officials have said the fund should become self-sustaining eventually as municipalities that receive loans start to pay them back.
Whitehall will spend about $2.8 million for an overhaul of North Hamilton Road that includes better access to a business park near the airport.
“It’s a large gateway into our city,” said Joe Ryan, economic development specialist in Whitehall. “It’s a very important commercial area.”
The county already has started to accept applications for the next round of funding through the infrastructure bank. The deadline to apply is Friday.
“We are limiting our lending to municipalities within Franklin County, but it has to be linked to economic development,” said Alex Beres, the county’s economic development program coordinator.