It appears that Athens County would likely receive a $25.6 million loan for construction of the Route 50 sanitary sewer project, but it also appears unlikely the money will be borrowed.

It appears that Athens County would likely receive a $25.6 million loan for construction of the Route 50 sanitary sewer project, but it also appears unlikely the money will be borrowed.

Jennifer Frommer, the county’s engineering consultant on the project, told the the Athens County Commissioners on Tuesday’s that the Ohio Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance (DEFA) is prepared to loan the county the money. The problem is, when the county applied for the funding it was hoping to get principal forgiveness — essentially a grant — for a sizable chunk of the money.

Frommer said if the money were accepted as just a loan, or with only a small amount of principal forgiveness, the commissioners would be unable to meet their goal of making the project affordable for residents in the project area. Bills residents would receive would not only include treatment costs, but also cover debt payments and maintenance costs.

The proposed project would connect subdivisions along Route 50W to the treatment system of the city of Athens.

Frommer said that a total of only $5 million is available for principal forgiveness for all projects intended for funding under DEFA, which is only a fraction of the amount that has been available in past years.

The county, she said, will be looking for other sources of funding for the Route 50 project.

“There are other funding options, several of them actually,” she told the commissioners. Frommer mentioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a possibility.

“I think there are alternative avenues to make it affordable,” County Commission President Lenny Eliason agreed.

At Tuesday’s meeting the commissioners spent more than three hours in a closed-door meeting with Frommer and county Assistant Prosecutor Rob Driscoll. The commissioners said the purpose of the executive session was to discuss a proposed agreement with the city for treatment of sewage from the Route 50 project. The commissioners have been reviewing a draft of the agreement received from the city.

After the private meeting, Eliason said the city will be presented with some revisions that he characterized as mostly “clean up stuff” that do not change the basic agreement.

The proposed agreement calls for the county to pay the city a capacity fee, estimated at $3.9 million, as well as treatment costs.