MAHONING VALLEY Group is choosing conservation ideas to get state funds

This is the first year that Clean Ohio Conservation Fund money is available.
AUSTINTOWN -- The fate of eight proposed local conservation projects was to be determined at today's meeting of an organization of local government officials and community leaders.
During the meeting, the District 6 Natural Resource Assistance Council was to decide which of the projects should get a portion of $1.4 million in state money from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund.
A total of $1.5 million in state funding has been requested for the projects.
Money from the fund can be used to buy open space, stream corridors or wildlife habitat and protect it from development. The fund also can be used to add roads and walkways that make open space accessible to the public.
This is the first year that money from the fund is available. The council, a group of local officials and community leaders, uses a point system to determine which projects receive the money.
Based on points
Each project is assigned points based on what is being protected. Projects that receive the greatest number of points are most likely to receive money.
The Clean Ohio Conservation Fund will pay for up to 75 percent of a project. At least 25 percent of the funding must come from local sources.
This morning's meeting was set for the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments office in Austintown. Eastgate Environmental Planner Kim Mascarella said she thinks local officials understand how money from the fund can benefit the Mahoning Valley.
"I think our communities are realizing more and more the value of open space and the value of preserving the environment," she said.
Mascarella said she feels that preservation can help draw new businesses to the area by providing parks and open space for workers and their families.
Money for the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund comes from the sale of $400 million in bonds for conservation authorized through voter approval of Issue 1 in November 2000.
Mascarella said money from the fund should be available in July.

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