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OHIO Senate to vote to preserve farmland and greenspace



Published: Wed, June 27, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The OFP will be kept alive despite efforts by the state Senate to do away with the agency.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- The office that would administer the farmland preservation portion of a $400 million brownfield cleanup/greenspace development bond issue would be funded through mostly bond interest.

The Senate Energy, Natural Resources and Environment Committee approved the bill putting into place the so-called Clean Ohio Fund at a Tuesday session. The full Senate could vote on the bill today.

The Office of Farmland Preservation, which would administer the $25 million farmland preservation component of the bond issue, would receive $296,000 in the fiscal year that begins July 1 and $469,000 in the second-year that begins July 1, 2002, said Tim Keen, the assistant director of the Office of Budget and Management.

Costs covered: Most of those costs would be covered by interest off the bond, Keen added.

The OFP funding is part of a larger $7.3 million in administrative costs to be funded mainly by bond interest for state departments such as agriculture, natural resources and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that will administer the Clean-Ohio Fund programs, Keen said.

When the Clean Ohio Fund bill was pending in the House, the Office of Farmland Preservation searched for money for its survival.

Funding cuts: According to a legislative analysis, the version of the two-year $45 billion state budget passed by the House earmarked $176,892 in the first year for the Office of Farmland Preservation and $182,668 in the second year.

The Senate's version of the spending plan cut that to $100,000 in both years of the budget, the analysis said. The conference committee that was to resolve differences between both versions cut the office's funding altogether.

With the Legislature preparing to leave for summer recess after this week, the committee hastened consideration of the bill, sponsored by state Rep. Charles Blasdel of East Liverpool, R-3rd. The bill passed the House earlier this month.

Distribution: Under the bill, the state is authorized to issue $200 million in general obligation bonds for farmland conservation and greenspace development and $200 million in revenue bonds for items such as an environmental remediation and cleanup projects.

The bill distributes most of the funds earmarked for greenspace development and redevelopment based on the Ohio Public Works Commission.

The commission is a state agency that divides up dollars for things such as roads, sewers and other capital improvement projects through 19 districts around the state.

Out of the $200 million "green" side, the proposal earmarks $25 million for farmland preservation purposes and $25 million dedicated to trails.

Under his bill, Blasdel said the $200 million set aside in the bond issue for brownfield cleanup would be distributed through another panel.




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