COLUMBUS — A borrowing-fueled $2.4 billion list of bricks and mortar projects across the state is in position for a vote today by the House in hopes of getting it to the governor’s desk by the end of next week.
The two-year capital budget emerged nearly unchanged from the House Finance Committee on Tuesday with funds earmarked for the “Hensville” project around Fifth Third Field in Toledo’s Warehouse District, the Toledo Zoo’s leafy sea dragon exhibit, improvements to Lake Erie island state parks, as well as numerous other improvements on college and university campuses, theaters, recreation trails, museums, and historic sites.
“There are many disappointed parties, because it’s been six years since we’ve done the 10 percent part of the bill that gets 90 percent of the attention, known as the community project portion of the bill,” said Rep. Ron Amstutz (R., Wooster), the committee chairman and bill sponsor.
The bill promises $220,000 for the 122-year-old Pemberville Opera House, which hopes to add an elevator and two handicapped-accessible, second-floor restrooms. Carol Bailey, artistic director, said the total project cost is expected to be about $330,000.
“The opera house was restored in 1999, and everybody hoped at that time that there could be an elevator,” she said. “But it was never a reality that anyone wanted to pursue.”
Now she hopes that a Wood County block grant, corporate and individual contributions, and other sources of funding could make up the $100,000 difference between the state grant and total cost.
“The older people get, the more they struggle to get up [the stairs],” Ms. Bailey said. “What was once something never on the radar is now very prevalent.”
The bill is moving swiftly. It was introduced just last week and is expected to clear its first chamber today. The goal is to have it clear the Senate and signed into law by April 2 so it can take effect on July 1.
Gov. John Kasich is counting on the package — as well as from recent borrowing against the Ohio Turnpike and proposed renewal of a local public works bond issue on the May 6 ballot — to fuel construction jobs and boost Ohio’s economy.
Among local highlights are $1.5 million toward the proposed $21 million creation of Hensville, centered on Mud Hens baseball.
It also promises $750,000 for the Toledo Zoo Aquarium for its leafy sea dragon exhibit and a related aquarium touch-tank at Bowling Green State University for marine biology internships. It holds $2.5 million for a new state forensics laboratory at BGSU.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.