Starke County Highway Department Maximizes Federal and State Funding

 The Starke County Highway Department has parlayed available federal and state funds into significant road improvements. Superintendent Rik Ritzler told the county commissioners Monday the county was awarded more than $1 million in Federal Highway Administration construction funds to replace the bridge on 1200 East across the Yellow River.

“It’s an 80 percent match, which is much better than the Community Crossings 50 percent match,” Ritzler said. “Community Crossings match is 50/50. We’ll get a much better bang for our buck this way, spending a lot less money and getting a lot more return.”

Ritzler says Community Crossings matching funds will be used for the bridge on 900 East just south of State Road 10 and on 625 South just west of 875 East. They will be bid together in early November, with work to start next spring.

Meanwhile, Ritzler says the county saved $250,000 from the one-time Local Option Income Tax distribution, which was used for road improvements this summer.

“Instead of receiving $500,000 in matching funds, 50/50 from the state, we will be receiving $1.3 million in matching funds, with a rate of 65 percent they pay, 3,5 percent we pay,” Ritzler explained. “We’re not matching any more than we were before. They’re just putting in a lot more. And we had the  $250,000 extra funds that we were able to put into road improvements, so really instead of just using the Community Crossings we got $1 million more in funding.”

Ritzler says that translated into more completed local projects.

“Most agencies had to choose between their 10 to 20 miles of road improvements or their one maybe two bridges. With that same amount of money we’re going to be able to replace five bridges, one larger Yellow River bridge, and we’ve completed 15 miles of road improvements this year. So a few more bridges, and the road improvements and the extra million dollars.”

Ritzler adds no new taxes or additional appropriations were needed.