Ohio’s state construction budget includes $600,000 to improve the Athens National Guard Armory and $22 million for projects at Ohio University’s Athens Campus.
The legislation was signed into law Tuesday by Governor Mike DeWine.
State Representative Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), a member of the House Finance Committee, said the legislation invests in the needs of today and the future.
“The new state construction budget invests in local, regional and statewide priorities, including educational and workforce needs, safety and security, and more,” he said. “This is a good bill for our community and our state.”
Funding for armory is earmarked for the Athens Hall of Honor Veterans Memorial. It will be used to improve accessibility to the Athens Armory, a former National Guard post, within which a Hall of Honor is to be installed. Specific improvements include the installation of an elevator and expansion of the entryway to accommodate increased foot traffic, according to Athens Mayor Steve Patterson.
“We have tried to get this funding in the past without much success,” he said, adding that the city is attempted to secure funding from several sources to make the building functional again. The city worked with Edwards, Lt. Gov. John Husted and State Senator Frank Hoagland to secure the funding.
The money will go toward a pot that includes $750,000 of the city’s own capital improvement funds and $500,000 of the city’s America Rescue Plan funds.
“It was wonderful news that we’d be getting $600,000 from the state capital budget,” Patterson said.
The bill also contains funds for several buildings within Athens County:
- Dairy Barn Arts Center — $100,000
- Stuart’s Opera House — $30,000
- Shade Community Center — $50,000 for upgrades and repairs
- Federal Valley Resource Center — $100,000 for improvements at the center
- Grand Army of the Republic Hall — $50,000 for repair and preservation of the facility, located in Coolville
- Turning Over a New Leaf in Rural Appalachian Ohio — $100,000 for the acquisition of virtual work hubs and residence
- Bailey’s Bike Trail — $2 million
Athens County Board of Commissioners President Lenny Eliason said investment in the region is needed and appreciated.
“I am excited that the governor and the Legislature have chosen to invest in our community facilities,” he said. “These places contribute so much to our citizens and it is important to maintain them and upgrade them. Investment in our region is critical to improving the lives of residents. I appreciate the efforts of Representative Edwards in helping secure these funds for our community. I will continue to work with him to increase our share of the state investment in Athens County and Southeast Ohio.”
The funds for Bailey’s Trail System are a continuation of state funding from 2021, said Elle Dickerman, Outdoor Recreation Manager and AmeriCorps member for Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia. The council is still working on completing 31 miles of the planned 88-mile mountain-bike optimized trail system.
“This historic investment in outdoor recreation infrastructure better equips rural Athens County, one of the state’s three persistent poverty counties, to grow and diversify its economy,” Dickerman said on the council’s behalf.
Funding for OU projects in Athens include:
- $9.3 million to replace aging or failed mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire safety systems in main campus buildings. For this biennium, these funds will be used to replace the HVAC systems in Stocker Center and distribution of electrical switchgear in the Old Heating Plant.
- $8.4 million for academic space improvements. This will be used, in part, for the final phase of the Clippinger Laboratories project. Funds will also be used for the first phase of a multiphase project to renew the College of Fine Arts facilities. Finally, with assistance from donated funds, OU plans to add a facility for the colleges of Education and Fine Arts.
- $3.5 million for infrastructure improvements for a multiphase project to replace aging or failed steam system components in the main campus steam system distribution network.
- $1.2 million to help address moderate to severe roofing system issues on Grosvenor Hall and Porter Hall.
OU received a total of about $28.36 million, which includes $475,000 for building exterior improvements at all regional campuses, $10,000 for Lancaster Festival upgrades and $4.5 million for infrastructure improvements on all regional campuses.
OU President Hugh Sherman expressed his gratitude to DeWine and the Ohio Legislature for their support and leadership.
“Due to the support of Governor DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly, Ohio University can better meet our mutual goals of promoting access, quality and affordability for Ohio students and families,” Sherman said. “I am grateful to Governor DeWine and the Ohio Legislature for their continued investment in public higher education.”
The legislation also includes $2.5 million for Hocking College, to support several projects, such as parking lot improvements ($1 million) and security lighting ($400,000). Projects also include basic renovations at $950,828 and firing range and classroom renovations at $150,000.
The bill also provides funding for several statewide initiatives, including $100 million for school safety, which will help public and private schools address local building security needs.
Other highlights of the bill include:
- $600 million for school building construction, renovation and repair through the state’s school facilities program
- $457 million for colleges and universities
- $400 million for the Public Works Commission to help communities with local road, bridge, water and sewer projects
- $587 million for state parks and nature preserves
- $50 million for the construction and renovation of county jails. Priority would be given to facilities with the greatest needs, as well as projects that would substantially improve the condition, safety and operational ability of the jail.