$17M for proposed Valley improvements in state budget

By Marc Kovac



The Youngstown Business Incubator, Youngstown State University, Stambaugh Auditorium and others would benefit from about $17 million for proposed Mahoning Valley improvements in the state’s $2.4 billion capital budget.

Gov. John Kasich and Republican lawmakers unveiled the planned building projects Tuesday. The projects are part of the new biennial capital budget, which will be considered by the Ohio House and Senate in coming weeks.

The total statewide includes $675 million for school repairs, about $450 million for colleges and universities, $369 million for road, bridge and related public works projects, $100 million in Clean Ohio funding for farmland, open spaces and related projects, and $574 million for state agencies’ capital needs including improvements at state parks.

“With the improved fiscal condition of the state, for the first time in six years, a portion of appropriations in this bill targets funds to support economic development projects of local or regional importance,” Tim Keen, the governor’s budget director, told members of the House Finance Committee on Tuesday.

“Our goal is to have the bill signed into law by April 2,” he added.

The new capital budget is up from about $1.8 billion OK’d for 2013-14; most of the projects are backed by long-term debt issued by the state.

Administration officials estimate the spending proposal will create 31,000 jobs over the next several years.

The legislation included more than $14.7 million in projects in Mahoning County, about $1.1 million in Columbiana County and nearly $1.5 million in Trumbull County.

The Youngstown Business Incubator sought $5 million to renovate The Vindicator’s office building on the corner of Vindicator Square and West Boardman Street for an incubator expansion. The incubator received $1.5 million.

“We knew we’d have to do it in phases, but we’re pleased with the funding,” said Barb Ewing, YBI’s chief operating officer. “We have to determine our priorities and where [the money] will have the best impact. It’s likely we’ll focus on office space first rather than manufacturing space.”

The incubator wants to use the building to expand its focus on additive manufacturing and business-to-business software, she said.

The incubator will seek other funding, including money from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, for this project, Ewing said.

Also, the incubator is negotiating with the newspaper to buy the building, she said. The incubator is using other money to purchase The Vindicator building, and expects to buy it as soon as possible, Ewing said.

The list drew praise from Youngstown-area business leaders; the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber was involved in pinpointing projects for funding.

“We were pleased with the new application process imposed by the governor’s office,” said Sarah Boyarko, vice president for economic development. “As the only private regional economic development organization in the Mahoning Valley, it was a natural fit for the regional chamber to lead the effort. It was a smooth process, and we’re pleased with the results.”

YSU is using its $11 million in funding for maintenance and repair, reducing operating expenses, modernizing classrooms, enhancing technology, expansion and completion.

Kent State University at Trumbull plans to use the money for ventilation and air-conditioning repair and replacement at its campus in Champion, while Kent State University at Salem and KSU at East Liverpool will see a science-lab expansion and $420,000 for classroom building renovations, respectively.

Eastern Gateway Community College plans to fund projects at the Jefferson County campus.

Stambaugh Auditorium will use its $500,000 grant toward an exterior beautification project that will include cleaning and pointing the building’s facade and replacing the monumental steps on the building’s Fifth Avenue side.

The exterior of the 1926 building has never been cleaned and bears decades of discoloration, according to Matt Pagac, general manager of the hall.

The limestone stairs are in a state of disrepair and were damaged even more by the harsh winter, said Pagac. Engineering work is underway to prepare for the project.

The remainder of the project funding will come from a capital campaign that is currently underway. Pagac could not pinpoint when the work will begin.

The Butler Institute of American Art is slated to receive $279,717, which is earmarked for the installation of a new public elevator, which will replace the old elevator in the original section of the museum. Louis A. Zona, director of the Butler, said some worn-out air-conditioning units in art storage areas also will be replaced.

The Youngstown Developmental Center in Mineral Ridge received $937,500 through the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to replace heating and air-conditioning systems in three buildings — a 27-bed residential cottage, the administrative building, and the central training and day services facility.

The systems being replaced are 20 years old and badly in need of replacement, said Zach Haughawout, deputy director of legislative affairs and communication for the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.

“The department is pleased we are able to repair these units and believe the improved units will significantly improve airflow and increase the comfort of the people we serve,” Haughawout said.

Boardman Township representatives applied for $1.8 million in collaboration with Boardman Park and the 4-H club toward the end of last year to create a Southern Park Historic District at the end of Raupp Avenue. The township received a large property donation from Clarence R. Smith Jr. and purchased 11.1 acres of the Smith property last year.

“The township is very excited; this will allow us to get started on the multiphase project for that area,” Administrator Jason Loree said. “It is looking pretty good; really it is going to bring a unique project to Boardman.”

The hope is to have a place for the community to gather, a museum, a place for parties and a place for people to reflect on the area that once was the place to be. The $250,000 received from the grant was just a portion of what was requested, but Loree said the funds are a nice starting amount.

“Basically, [this area] was a community asset for over 100 some years ago and not many people know of its existence today,” he said.

The township will look for more grants and donations to complete the project. Donations will be accepted at the Boardman Township Administration Building on Market Street.

Among the projects from the Mahoning Valley that failed to get funding was the Youngstown-owned Covelli Centre’s amphitheater. The outdoor facility is estimated to cost $2 million to $3 million. The city had wanted money from the capital budget toward the amphitheater, but failed to get it.

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