I thank you for the invitation and privilege of testifying today, to you and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, at this field hearing being held at Washington State Community College in Marietta, Ohio. The primary purpose of this hearing is to receive testimony on the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the impact of the last reauthorization of this program and issues regarding the upcoming reauthorization.
I testify to express my comments and those of the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association’s (OMEGA) Board and to seek your consideration and support in securing funding and reauthorization status for the ARC and its programs. In addition, we ask that you and the Committee support retaining the original mission of the program as a flexible, locally driven program that provides valuable assistance to county commissioners, mayors and development officials working to improve local communities and the needs of those communities.
As Executive Director of OMEGA, I represent an organization that serves as a Council of Governments (COG), a Local Development District (LDD) and an Economic Development District (EDD) serving a ten-county region with a population of 593,221 residents in eastern Ohio.
At our most recent Annual Board meeting (April 12, 2006), 90 officials, including commissioners, mayors, county engineers, development officials, educators and private business leaders spoke of the critical importance of continuing funding and reauthorization of the ARC program.
At this meeting, we held discussion on this hearing today and our Board in its entirety requested your support and leadership in securing proper funding and reauthorization of this most important ARC program.
As a former development director in Belmont County, Ohio, I have had the privilege of working with you when you were Governor of the State of Ohio on three (3) separate development projects and they were: the 80 million dollar Ohio Coatings Electrolytic Tin Plating Plant in Yorkville, Ohio, the Shadyside Stamping Mayflower Plant built at a cost of 32 million dollars and the Belmont Correctional Institution built at a cost of 38 million dollars. These three (3) development projects were built at a total cost of 150 million dollars and when I left Belmont County in 2001, these three (3) development projects had approximately 900 employees with an annual payroll and benefit package of over 35 million dollars. Belmont County and its people benefit today because of these developments. These special projects could not have happened had it not been for the ARC program and others like it.
Records that we have in the OMEGA office from 1968 through 2005 report the OMEGA region of 10 counties has received a total of $75,400,000 in federal and state ARC grant awards. These grants have enabled us to complete 360 projects addressing local health, safety, welfare and education projects totaling over $305,385,000. These ARC grants are so important to our region and to the individual counties and cities they benefit.
Our infrastructure needs are many not only here but also throughout the country. Last summer, the American Society of Civil Engineers prepared a report which addresses 12 categories of infrastructure that gives the nation’s transportation, water and energy system and overall grade of “D” plus. Both drinking water and wastewater received a grade of “D”. The report states the nation’s 54,000 drinking water systems are aging rapidly and some sewer systems are 100 years old. We need quality programs like the ARC that address these issues of concern and importance.
In closing, I would like to reiterate my strong support for the ARC and its model for service delivery. It is clear that the administration of the ARC program by the agency’s staff and the Federal Co-Chair’s office is not conducted in a manner that many would consider to be “typical Washington bureaucracy”. The ARC has shown that it is a program that seeks to simplify rather than complicate. It does not try to operate under a rigid or lengthy review or approval process that in many other agencies tend to frustrate and confuse the applicant. Of extreme importance is that the ARC administration operates with a programmatic mindset that seeks to work with the states and local governments in order to get their priorities funded.
You have done much for the people of Ohio and for economically disadvantaged citizens throughout the United States. We ask that you continue to look out for those in need and in the shadows of life. With a sluggish economy and three (3) major floods that occurred recently, our 10 member counties need your help and that of Congress more than ever. We ask for your continued support of this most worthy program and we ask for your leadership in securing reauthorization status and proper funding needed for so many projects within the ARC region.
We thank you for your consideration of this report and for all that you do for the OMEGA region.