Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
By William Kincaid
State budget includes $4M for Grand Lake area
Walkway, parks, mill among planned projects
Money in the pending state capital budget bill would finance the start of an education center at the fairgrounds, the completion of the West Bank walkway in Celina and assist several other area projects.
The $2 billion budget bill is expected to be introduced in the Ohio House today and is poised to provide more than $4 million for projects in Mercer and Auglaize counties, according to State Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina. The bill must be passed by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. John Kasich.
Faber told the newspaper Monday the budget bill sets aside approximately $150 million for community projects statewide.
Several grant proposals were submitted by community administrators and endorsed by Faber, the president of the Ohio Senate. He is confident the earmarks will remain intact, noting the proposals have been vetted through a legislative process. Legislators reviewed requests for billions of dollars worth of projects, he added.
Faber's support was based on a 50 percent financial match commitment from the municipalities and community support.
Funding for the following projects likely will be released this summer, he said:
• Mercer County Fairgrounds - $1.5 million for a $4 million multi-purpose Progressive Agriculture Convention and Education Center.
• Celina - $1 million for the $1.5 million completion of the West Bank walkway. The city's past contributions would be considered its match.
• Wright State University-Lake Campus - $475,000 for a $950,000 advanced manufacturing component of the Business Enterprise Center.
• Celina - $285,545 toward $472,000 in baseball field upgrades at Westview Park.
• New Bremen - $250,000 for a $585,000 improvement project at Lion's Park.
• St. Marys - $250,000 for a $1.75 million restoration project of the St. Marys Gordon Hauss Folk Company Mill and Miami Erie Canal Trail.
• Celina - $150,000 for a $478,000 upgrade of Eastview Park.
• Rockford - $100,000 for a $528,000 improvement project at Shane's Park.
• Coldwater - $35,000 for a $70,0000 improvement project at Coldwater Memorial Park.
The state capital budget bill allocates money to four major subgroups: higher education infrastructure, K-12 education school buildings, state facilities and, for the first time in four or five years, community projects, Faber said.
Projects had to be bondable and generally pertain to economic development such as a business incubator, infrastructure or development related to parks and recreation, he said.
Faber said the state's bonding capacity cannot be greater than 5 percent of its general fund; its debt is currently less than 4 percent due to good fiscal management, debt repayment and restructuring, allowing for the funding, he said.
Faber said he and some of his colleagues sought to rebalance the funding of community projects with a state-centric approach to make it more equitable to rural areas like Mercer and Auglaize counties.
He praised the commitment and advocacy of local community leaders, including Mercer County Community Development Director Jared Ebbing, who Faber said is as good at his job as anyone in a similar position in the state.
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