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Published: Friday, 12/29/2006

Capital budget OK'd with millions for NW Ohio

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS Gov. Bob Taft yesterday signed into law a $1.77 billion wish list of construction projects that holds millions for Toledo s marina and arena projects and dangles a possible hike in the hotel tax before the Lucas County commissioners.

The borrowing-fueled, two-year capital budget includes $700 million in new school construction, $526 million for repairs and construction at colleges and universities, and $145 million in local water, sewer, road, and other public works projects.

It also includes $17.5 million for 1.2 million doses of anti-viral vaccines as a hedge against a possible flu pandemic.

Locally, projects in Lucas County would total $32.5 million; Wood, $37.9 million; Ottawa, $3.7 million; Fulton, $417,030; and Henry, $500,000. The numbers in larger counties are boosted by projects supporting major institutions such as the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, and Owens Community College.

This bricks-and-mortar bill contains investments that are important to the future of Ohio and its ability to compete in the 21st century economy, said Mr. Taft.

Among the highlights for Toledo is $5.5 million for the proposed downtown hockey arena project as well as $2.9 million for the Marina District amphitheater.

The bill provides authority for Lucas County commissioners to raise the county s lodging tax by 2 percentage points to 10 percent to help finance construction of the arena and expanded convention center.

The final decision, however, lies with the county commissioners and, potentially, county voters.

Lawmakers attached restrictions to the hike, subjecting it either to a vote of the people before the tax is raised or the possibility of a citizen-initiated repeal effort afterwards.

If approved, the county s bed taxes, including local and state sales taxes, would be among the highest in the nation at 16.75 percent.

Monclova Township, with a local lodging tax of 3 percent, would have the highest at 19.75 percent.

The local hotel industry has argued that it is being unfairly targeted to finance projects that would benefit all county residents and businesses.

Local project highlights in the capital budget include:

• $12 million for Owens Community College s purchase of 55 acres of property owned by the Penta County Joint Vocational School District off Oregon Road for campus expansion.

• $8.1 million for an addition to the health center at Bowling Green State University s main campus.

• $6.1 million in basic classroom, lab, and other renovations at the University of Toledo.

• $2.1 million in renovations to Owens Community College.

• $1.2 million in upgrades at Ottawa County s Camp Perry, a training center for Ohio National Guard units.

• $1 million toward UT s Technology and Incubation Center.

• $1 million toward protections for the barrier beach at the Sheldon Marsh in Erie County.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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