By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- And after the third strike, state Sen. Bob Hagan walked out.
Hagan, of Youngstown, D-33rd, said Youngstown State University officials have slighted him three times since March. He said the most recent insult came Friday, when he and other state legislators weren't asked to help break ground for the $3.3 million expansion to Bliss Hall.
The 18,000-square-foot expansion, slated to be complete next August, will include a foundry, an area for woodworking, a computer lab for three-dimensional design projects and a sculpture workshop. It is part of the university's efforts to improve Youngstown's Smoky Hollow section.
Hagan attended the beginning of the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday in Bliss Hall's Ford Theater -- where the ceremony was moved due to rain, then left when he realized he wouldn't be among those holding a shovel. The shovels were held by Youngstown Mayor George McKelvey, YSU President David Sweet, YSU Trustees Chairman Joseph Nohra, Associate Art Professor Greg Moring and George McCloud, the dean of YSU's college of fine and performing arts, who dug into boxes of dirt on the theater's stage.
YSU officials expressed thanks for Hagan's efforts during the ceremony and asked him to stand. The audience applauded, then appeared puzzled when they realized that Hagan wasn't in the crowd.
As a member of the Senate finance committee, Hagan helped secure $3.3 million in state funding to pay for the Bliss Hall expansion. Hagan said he thought a local state legislator such as State Reps. Sylvester Patton Jr. of Youngstown, D-64th, John Boccieri of New Middletown, D-57th, or himself should have participated in the groundbreaking to recognize the state's contribution to the project. He also questioned why McKelvey was carrying a shovel.
During the ceremony, McKelvey said the city "will do whatever it takes to help [YSU]."
"As YSU goes, the city of Youngstown goes," he said.
YSU later issued an official apology stating: "We count on our state elected officials, and we certainly want to give credit as is appropriate, specifically, we want to apologize to Sen. Hagan for not seeking his direct participation in today's event."
Hagan said he also was slighted by YSU in March when YSU officials didn't tell him that a $1.5 million state grant slated for the city's downtown arena project was instead given to YSU.
In addition, Hagan was upset that he wasn't asked to help break ground for YSU's new $22 million University Courtyard student apartment complex in Smoky Hollow.
Nevertheless, Hagan stressed that he'll continue to work to gain state support for the university.