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Bill targets $9.7M for new YSU student center

12 county projects also would share slices of $350M pot

Youngstown State University would get $10.7 million — including $9.75 million for a new student center — while 12 projects in Mahoning County and six in Trumbull County would receive state money under a bill approved by the Ohio House.

The House on Wednesday approved the bill that includes $350 million for projects throughout the state.

The money comes from $700 million the state has from unused federal COVID-19 funding and money Ohio didn’t spend from its general revenue fund because of the pandemic.

The House and the Senate each agreed to spend $350 million.

The Senate doesn’t plan to move quickly with its bill or the approval of what the House approved in a 75-19 vote.

It could take until June for the Senate to agree to the spending along with projects that would be part of the capital budget.

The largest Mahoning Valley allocation, by far, in the House bill is $9.75 million for YSU’s new student center.

The replacement of Kilcawley Center, YSU’s student center, will cost about $40 million to $45 million with the initial plan calling for about $20 million to be collected through fundraisers and donors and the rest either borrowed or bonded.

Businessman Bruce Zoldan announced last week that he was pulling his family’s $5 million commitment — matching the largest financial gift ever given to YSU — because of the board of trustees’ controversial decision to hire Bill Johnson, a former Republican congressman with no higher education experience, as the university’s 10th president.

After Zoldan’s decision, YSU had raised about $3 million for the student center.

The nearly $10 million in the House bill would be a huge boost to YSU’s efforts.

Johnson said he was in Columbus talking with legislators and business officials when he heard about the funding.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm about what’s happening at Youngstown State University to enhance the campus experience for our students,” Johnson said.

He thanked state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, the chief co-sponsor of the bill, and said he was “looking forward to working with others who are interested in helping potential students all over our region, state, nation and internationally” know that YSU “is such an exceptional place to come for their education.”

YSU also would get $952,498 for information technology infrastructure upgrades and renovations.

The 12 Mahoning County projects in the House bill are:

* $1.5 million for an Animal Charity of Ohio infrastructure expansion

* $875,000 for the West Branch school district’s Regional Community Education and Wellness Training Center

* $750,000 for the Mahoning Valley Historical Society’s new downtown Youngstown building

* $660,000 for a Campbell access and safety project

* $300,000 to renovate the primary runway and build additional hangars at the Salem Airpark in Goshen

* $238,000 for roof work to the Youngstown Playhouse

* $185,000 for a multi-use trail on Sheridan Road in the village of Poland

* $103,150 for a splash pad at Mauthe Park in Struthers

* $100,000 for the Rich Center for Autism’s Building for Tomorrow project

* $93,500 for Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana’s capital campaign

* $60,000 for a Canfield Police Department drone program

* $60,000 for facility and program improvements to the War Vet Museum in Canfield

Cutrona said: “I am proud to sponsor this legislation to ensure that we are building a brighter Ohio. My goal this General Assembly was to bring back state dollars to communities throughout the state of Ohio, especially in areas of the state that are often overlooked.”

He added: “This one-time funding in the Mahoning Valley especially will strengthen the region and the rest of Ohio for generations to come.”

State Rep. Lauren McNally, D-Youngstown, said: “I’m really proud to have successfully secured state investment for a record amount of projects in this district in recent years.”

She said getting the funding for YSU is “very important because the university is an anchor for our area.”

The six Trumbull County projects in the House bill are:

* $500,000 for renovations to Eastwood Field in Niles

* $350,000 to construct a community outdoor pavilion in downtown Cortland, which will host the Cortland Street Fair and food truck event

* $345,000 for a Bloomfield regional emergency medical services building to serve northwest Trumbull County

* $330,350 to protect the water quality at Mosquito Lake State Park

* $300,000 for infrastructure improvements at Camp Sugarbush in Kinsman

* $250,000 to improve the Trumbull County Fair’s grandstand by replacing windows, repairing concrete and upgrading lighting.

State Rep. Mike Loychik, R-Bazetta, said: “It is vital to our local economies that we continue to dedicate resources to projects that are responsible for providing safety, education and entertainment.”

dskolnick@vindy.com

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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