MAHONING VALLEY Projects official worries about Issue 2 renewal vote

A bond issue that failed in 2003 is tied to a popular public works program.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A local official is concerned that $4 million a year in state funding for local road and sewer projects could be in jeopardy.
Jim Wells, director of special projects for the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, said he's worried that voters will not understand that a state bond issue this November includes a renewal of a program that's been known as Issue 2.
This program, which has pumped about $80 million into Mahoning and Trumbull counties in the past 20 years, expires this year.
The state Legislature this week approved placing the new bond issue, dubbed Jobs for Ohio, on the ballot.
Eastgate, which coordinates grants for area governments, and local communities will have to campaign hard to explain the issue to voters, Wells said.
Voters could be confused because the bond issue would fund two other programs in addition to Issue 2, he said.
One of those programs, the Third Frontier, was on the ballot as a separate bond issue two years ago and was rejected by voters.
The Ohio Roundtable, a nonprofit public policy group, and others have been critical of the Third Frontier being tucked into a larger issue that includes the popular public works program.
Bond uses
The new bond issue would provide $2 billion. About $1.35 million would go to renew the Issue 2 program for 10 years.
That program allows local officials to decide how to spend money in their areas. Locally, Mahoning and Trumbull counties make up one region, and an appointed committee decides how to allocate about $4 million in annual funding.
This year's projects include storm sewer projects in Howland and Canfield and improvements to the water system operated by the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District.
The bond issue also would provide $500 million for the Third Frontier, which is Gov. Bob Taft's plan to aid development of high-tech businesses. It includes grants and low-interest loans to companies that create high-tech jobs.
The remaining $150 million from the bond issue would be used for redeveloping industrial sites.
Bill DeCicco, executive director of CASTLO Community Improvement Corp. in Struthers, said he would be interested in hearing more about plans for this money. He has been involved with the Mahoning River Corridor of Opportunity, which has been obtaining grants to prepare former steel mill land in Youngstown, Struthers and Campbell for development.
The bond issue calls for money to be distributed to six regions in the state.
The Ohio Department of Development says the program would provide $30 million a year for three years and then $15 million a year for four additional years. The money is to help finance site acquisition, building rehabilitation and infrastructure development.
The agency says the program is designed to aid site preparation where little cleanup is necessary.

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