Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Ohio fields 9,229 requests for slice of federal government's stimulus funds

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COLUMBUS - There was debate over whether President Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package should have happened at all, but it seems just about everybody has an idea about how Ohio should spend its share of the money.

The package, which includes an infusion of cash for Ohio highway, bridge, mass transit, water, energy, and other projects, had drawn nearly 9,229 proposals whose value, if all were approved, would eclipse the amount of money available.

The list includes massive wind farms, solar panel manufacturing facilities, warehouse construction, local sidewalk and guardrail projects, and the hiring of local police officers.

Gov. Ted Strickland's office yesterday released a 1,844-page list of 9,229 projects that have been submitted for the state's consideration through a special Web site,

The list continues to be updated as more suggestions are submitted.

Proposed projects in northwest Ohio include such things as a $135,000 study for a $60 million wind farm on a dredge-filled site at the mouth of the Maumee River in Toledo, $100 million toward a $1.2 billion solar manufacturing park in Wood County, and roughly half the cost of a $10.5 million elephant-hippo-rhino exhibit at The Toledo Zoo.

Projects across the state were submitted by government and economic development agencies, private business owners, and individuals.

The governor's office insisted that the growing list consists of raw proposals, many of which are likely not to meet guidelines for the "shovel-ready'' projects that the stimulus package envisions.



The idea behind many of the dollars is to quickly spur construction and other jobs that would, in turn, pump money into the sputtering economy.

"These are expressions of interest submitted to the state,'' said Strickland spokesman Amanda Wurst. "They will go to the relevant state agencies to do the appropriate follow-up.

"Demand will certainly exceed the available formula portion of the [stimulus] bill,'' she said. "The formula portion estimates that Ohio will receive $8.2 billion, but we continue to analyze the final version of the bill concerning [nationally] competitive and discretionary recovery resources that may be available to Ohio. We want to take full advantage of those resources.''

The federal package holds a total of $8.2 billion in one-time help for Ohio, much of it dedicated to shore up the state's overloaded Medicaid program, schools, and the state budget.

Included in that total is more than $2 billion in infrastructure support - $971 million dedicated for highways and ports, $399 million for energy and weatherization, $203 million for mass transit, $9 million for rail modernization, $58 million for drinking water projects, $224 million for clean water projects, and $139 million for public housing improvements.

That doesn't count separate competitive projects directly at the federal level.

On one end of the scale, the Willard & Kelsey Solar Group is asking for $100 million to apply toward a $1.2 billion, low-cost solar panel manufacturing park in Perrysburg that it claims will create jobs for 3,696 employees with auto manufacturing-type skills.

Matt Sapiro, director of development for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and interim president of the Lucas County Improvement Corp., noted that the economic development groups in the county submitted a comprehensive list of 46 projects in order to show a united front of support.

"With 7,400 projects, it's obvious that not a lot of people understand that you cannot submit a project unless the design is completed,'' he said. "I'm familiar with a lot of projects in other counties and, in my opinion, a lot of them are not that far along.''

The city of Toledo's top priority is a landmark vertical solar field to cover the south side of the downtown Fiberglas Tower. Energy efficient retrofits also are sought for the building. The city wants the feds to pay $5 million of the $6 million cost of the work.

LCIC is seeking $5 million for a loan guarantee program to help underwrite rehabilitation projects using solar, wind, and other alternative energy systems.

Lucas County commissioners are asking for $25 million toward a $30 million power plant to serve downtown government buildings.

The list goes on and on and includes about $1 million for the Toledo Zoo to construct a "solar walkway" to provide visitors with shade and shelter from mild inclement weather.

"The fact that we've been working as a region gives us a competitive advantage over other parts of the state,'' said state House Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Szollosi (D., Toledo). "It's going to be an overwhelming task to determine which are the best projects to meet the fundamental goals of stimulating the economy and creating jobs.''

On the other end of the scale is Susan Spencer, a Bowling Green mother whose idea doesn't easily mesh with the bricks-and-mortar, wind turbines, solar panels, and sanitary sewer projects with bigger price tags and a lot of promise.

Still, she made a pitch for a modest $10,000 for a Web site designed to encourage children to work together to write stories.

"I'm an urban planner, so I'm also working to get money for bridges and infrastructure,'' she said. "But I'm always concerned about whether my daughter is appropriately developing her reading skills.''

Contact Jim Provance at:

or 614-221-0496.

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