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County to chase federal dollars in regional effort

Last fall’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation can probably be considered a generational investment.

Regional officials want a slice of that giant pie.

Warren County Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said the effort is born out of a “regional council of governments” which includes Warren and Erie counties in Pennsylvania as well as Chautauqua County, NY and Ashtabula County, Oh.

The entity was formalized over the winter and received a boost in May when Erie County implemented a fusion cell designed to serve as their county’s economic development efforts.

Kafferlin said he wants to see Warren County implement a similar model.

“They’ve done a great job of planning it out,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is compile all of the wants and needs of our communities that could potentially be applied for grant-wise with federal dollars.”

The initiative crosses county and state lines and that’s viewed as a benefit.

“(We) talked to the White House about this,” Kafferlin said. “We would be more heavily weighted because (we’re) crossing county and state borders. We’ve gotten confirmation as much as can be (that) that is a desirable strategy.”

That effort will require gathering a mass of information.

Kafferlin explained it would start with listening sessions and meetings with municipalities to identify projects, bundling them and then taking them to the regional entity.

The target is to bundle the project together this fall.

He acknowledged that some match funding is required but said that the match could be county or municipal Rescue Plan funds.

So what kind of projects could be on the table here?

“Massive broadband initiatives, big sewer projects, water,” he said. “The opportunities are kind of endless. As long as it fits in the infrastructure bill we can go after a lot.”

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