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Mayor Of Findlay, Ohio Says Trump's Infrastructure Plan Could Help City Address Flooding


The Trump administration is calling for 1.5 trillion in new spending on infrastructure. The bulk of that money would come from private investors and states and cities. So let's hear reaction now from one city with a big infrastructure problem. Findlay, Ohio sits along the flood-prone Blanchard River. When I spoke with the town's Republican mayor, Lydia Mihalik, I asked her how flood-prone?

LYDIA MIHALIK: So really, you know, this is something we've been dealing with for the last hundred years. I think, you know, our first major flood happened in 1913. We're very topographically challenged. We like to tell people that we're very flat. And some would think that perhaps the Blanchard River is this, you know, large, deep-flowing river that causes us a lot of trouble.

But really, it's a very shallow stream. And when we get anywhere between 2 to 3 inches or more of rain in any given storm event, it causes us to flood quite a bit. And we had just begun a study with the Army Corps of Engineers, which basically was a feasibility study that helped develop some solutions for our community. And, you know, we're still working through that process.

We have taken our project from the Army Corps of Engineers and are now doing it on our own. So it's been a long, long road to hoe, that's for sure.

KELLY: Now, you met with President Trump last June. You told him about Findlay and the river and the infrastructure needs. What did he say to you?

MIHALIK: You know, I think the one thing that has been consistent is that President Trump would like to see communities put more into these projects. And a community like Findlay is well-positioned to take advantage of that. But the one thing that we have reminded the White House consistently over the last year about is that not every community is in that position.

KELLY: One aspect of the Trump proposal is that the private sector needs to play a role in this infrastructure plan. And that's something you have been pursuing already there in Findlay. Tell me what that looks like. What does the private sector get out of helping you solve the river flooding problem?

MIHALIK: Well, you know, our private sector, when they take a look at what a flooding event actually does in terms of its impact on their ability to just get people into work and deliver goods to market, they want to be involved because there's a business case for it. And we've been very fortunate to have some rather large and small companies, large companies like Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Cooper Tire & Rubber, Whirlpool, you know, they have all been engaged in our flood mitigation strategy.

The progress, although, you know, we're not as far along as we wanted to be to this point, the progress that we've made so far has a lot to do with the engagement of the private sector.

KELLY: I want to let you respond to one of the main criticisms that's being made of the Trump proposal, which is this that it does put the onus for coming up with most of the money on state and local governments. Are there limits to what a city like yours can do? I mean, are you sympathetic to the need for federal vision, for federal money and investment backing up that vision when you think about the country's infrastructure needs?

MIHALIK: You know, I am. Not every space is going to be successful in this endeavor. And, you know, I think there are communities that are giving a lot to Washington in terms of tax dollars. And I think what they're expecting back is not only resources to help us with some of these infrastructure problems but, you know, we have people we have to take care of too.

There's been a large push not only from the federal government but from states as well for cities to take on a majority of that responsibility. And we have some resources and we do a good job with the resources we've been given. But there is a role to play both at the state and federal level that I think needs to be acknowledged.

KELLY: Mayor Mihalik, thank you.

MIHALIK: Yeah, you're welcome.

KELLY: That's Lydia Mihalik, the Republican mayor of Findlay, Ohio. She's one of a range of voices we are hearing from this week talking about President Trump's infrastructure plan. Thanks again.

MIHALIK: You're welcome. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.