Federal funding package sets aside $15M for Valley

Portion of money will allow air reserve station to widen runway

A $1.5 trillion government funding package approved by the U.S. House includes about $15 million in earmarks for Mahoning Valley projects with $8.7 million of it to widen an assault runway at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

The omnibus spending package includes about 3,000 earmarks nationally, totaling about $4.2 billion, including 10 sponsored by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

Of those 10, seven are in the Valley, with the three others in Summit and Portage counties, which Ryan also represents. Overall, Ryan’s 10 funded requests total about $18 million.

“These investments will help feed folks in our community, educate our children and provide them with out-of-school activities and better health care,” Ryan, D-Howland, said. “The funding will move northeast Ohio forward.”

He added: “It’s my priority in Congress to bring back Ohioans’ hard-earned tax dollars to help create jobs and ensure a good quality of life for everyone who lives here.”

The House approved the package late Wednesday by a 260-171 vote that keeps federal agencies funding through Sept. 30.

The Democratic-controlled House had approved the earmarks before in appropriations bills, but the Senate didn’t act.

This time, however, the Senate also is expected to vote in favor of the package as early as today.

Funding for the projects was “secured in the House appropriations bills, which was an important first step in the process,” Caty Payette, Ryan’s spokeswoman, said. “The projects being secured in the omnibus were the next important step toward getting them finalized. With the omnibus expected to pass the Senate and signed into law by the president, the funding for these projects will be finalized.”

The House and Senate in December authorized the $8.7 million for the runway at the air reserve station in Vienna through the National Defense Authorization Act.

The package approved Wednesday appropriates the funding for it, Payette said.

The project will widen the runway to support C-17 and C-130 aircraft. Currently, YARS aircraft and crews have to travel to Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina to perform required training landings.

The other Valley projects getting funding are:

• $2 million for the Youngstown Community Food Center, also known as Gleaners Food Bank, at 94 Pyatt St. in Youngstown. The money would be used to increase the size of the existing 15,000-square-foot location by demolishing a condemned structure across the street and building a new facility to expand its distribution service and create a hub for weekly produce markets as well as renovate the existing building;

• $1.5 million for the Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown for its community backyard project. The plan is to renovate and upgrade more than 200,000 square feet of property owned by the organization, located at 2105 Oak Hill Ave. in Youngstown. The project includes sports fields and a walking field that will benefit the city’s South Side;

• $1 million to Mercy Health-Youngstown to renovate the former Veterans Affairs clinic at 2031 Belmont Ave. in Youngstown to establish programs for pregnant women to get prenatal-centering assistance and to help those with medicinal addiction problems;

• $850,000 for Mahoning High School, a drop-out recovery and prevention school at 940 Bryn Mawr Ave. in Youngstown, to establish a community learning center that will include onsite medical services, child care, counseling and other resources to improve the lives of community members;

• $549,600 to make improvements to the village of Lowellville’s wastewater treatment plant;

• $312,744 for the Youngstown Business Incubator, 241 W. Federal St., to launch and help coordinate the Valley Internet of Things Initiative, a training and entrepreneurial support programs for Mahoning Valley manufacturers in cooperation with BRITE Energy Innovators in Warren.

House Democrats announced last year they were bringing back earmarks that were eliminated in 2011 when Republicans took control of the House. Before the ban, opponents said earmarks were abused and had little oversight.

House Democrats changed the rules with the return of earmarks. Members had to make the projects public along with an explanation for each proposal, and the number of earmarks was restricted.

U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Bainbridge, who represents a portion of Trumbull County, also had 10 projects, totaling about $18 million, funded through the omnibus spending package. None of Joyce’s projects are for Trumbull, the smallest county in his current district.

Joyce’s projects included $2,764,000 for additional dredging of Conneaut Harbor and $460,000 to rebuild an access road in Ashtabula Harbor.

“I was proud to submit these important funding requests last year and have fought for them ever since,” Joyce said. “I look forward to these tax dollars returned to northeast Ohio and seeing the positive impact they have in our communities.”


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