Butler County to bring expanded broadband access, technical school training centers
Jan. 28—Butler County has spent all but about $6 million of its $74.4 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds over the course of two phases.
Phase I saw officials spend $10 million on high speed broadband expansion — the largest single expenditure to come out of the county's ARPA funds.
County Administrator Judi Boyko said the project might have the largest, most immediate impact on county residents, adding it could be "life changing" to the estimated 45% of Butler County households that lack adequate access to high speed internet.
"All of the ARPA funding allocations are significant investments in Butler County and impacts each recipient in ways unique to them," Boyko said. "From an overall perspective, the prospective investment and deployment of the high speed fiber optic broadband project is uniquely positioned to create opportunities to enhance the quality of life for many residents in the west side of the county who are currently underserved or not served at all with high speed internet."
At the time of reporting, the county has not yet entered into a contract with a fiber internet provider.
Overall, Butler Tech received the largest allocation after being granted $15 million, which is intended to be split to build two new training centers, one in Hamilton for the School of Advanced Manufacturing ($8 million) and one in Middletown for the School of Aviation ($7 million).
County officials continued the trend of education investment with a $5 million grant toward Miami University's College@Elm's Innovation and Workforce Center. The Journal-News previously reported that the center would host office space, an entrepreneurship center, startups, a workforce and small business development resource center, a design and testing area and space for manufacturing operations in a former Miami food services building.
The county was also able to allocate its own ARPA funds to Butler County municipalities to help with a variety of projects.
To benefit recreation centers, Butler County sent $1.5 million to both Booker T. Washington Center in Hamilton and Middletown's Sonny Hill Community Center. To assist villages with road and water infrastructure updates, the county sent a combined $4 million to Millville, New Miami, Seven Mile and College Corner. $5 million was allocated to complete paving projects in county townships in 2024.
The county also shuttled $3 million to both Middletown and Fairfield for necessary work along Route 4 to fund the "demolition and rehabilitation of properties" along the corridor, while $1.5 million was necessary to fix the roadways at the fairgrounds in order to host the county's vaccination clinic.
In the last of the big ticket items already allocated, the county invested $3 million toward the county mental health board's crisis stabilization center and another $2.5 million to complete the Miami River Trail, which, once completed, will fully connect Fairfield, Hamilton, Middletown, Miamisburg, Dayton, Troy, and Piqua along an uninterrupted bike path.
Federal guidelines mandate that ARPA funds are allocated before the end of 2024, and fully spent by the end of 2026. Boyko said the county's remaining $6 million has yet to be officially allocated.
Editor's Note: This story is part of a Journal-News series tracking how dozens of our area's largest governments are spending hundreds of millions of dollars combined from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Visit our "Billions in COVID aid: Where it's going" special section on our partner newspaper's website at daytondailynews.com/investigations/billions-in-covid-aid to see summaries from other communities.