History Center

The “great hall” of the former First Christian Church in Athens — now home to the Southeast Ohio History Center — will be renovated for use as exhibit and conference space. The history museum received $100,000 in state funding toward the project as part of the $69 billion two-year budget passed this week.

Note: This story appears in the Friday, July 19 newspaper on Page A1.

The two-year state budget was approved by lawmakers on Wednesday and signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday.

Here are some local highlights of the $69 billion budget, which concerns Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021.

Local history museum gets $ for renovation work

The Southeast Ohio History Center in Athens relocated to the former First Christian Church building back in 2017, but further renovation work is ongoing.

Jessica Cyders, executive director of the history center, said the $100,000 grant in the budget is being used to renovate the “great hall” — once used as First Christian’s main sanctuary.

The plan is to level the floor, take out the pews and use the room for exhibits and local conference space.

Work is expected to begin next January, Cyders said, with a target grand opening of April 2020.

Hocking College & Ohio University to lead way in technical training

It appears both Hocking College and Ohio University will be involved in a new program to provide technical training to individuals with developmental disabilities.

The state budget allocates up to $750,000 for Hocking College to develop the “technical content” for the training, which will take place in Fairfield County. In essence, the college is tasked with creating a short-term certificate and apprenticeship program for clients in the Lancaster area.

Once that program is formed, the budget stipulates, OU’s Lancaster branch will be offered the chance to operate it going forward.

Separately, OU-Lancaster will receive $500,000 next year to create instructional training in Fairfield County in the fields of advanced manufacturing and robotics.

There is a broader goal outlined in the budget for Hocking College, OU-Lancaster and the Fairfield County government to establish a “Workforce Program Committee” to develop these training programs there.

OU gets funding to support students, Appalachia

The budget prioritizes funding for Ohio University in other ways, particularly those that impact the whole area.

In one example, OU was earmarked $250,000 over the next two years to support the Rural University Program. This is a collaboration with three other state universities to provide “rural communities with economic development, public administration and public health services.”

OU’s George Voinovich Academy for Excellence in Public Service will receive nearly $1.5 million to fund its training programs. The new Academy was developed by the school's existing Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. 

Another budget section offers millions of dollars to the Appalachian New Economy Workforce Partnership, operated out of the Voinovich School. The money is meant to allow OU to “continue a multi-campus and multi-agency coordinated effort to link Appalachia to the new economy.”

Hocking Valley Scenic Trail

A project to connect Nelsonville and Logan with a scenic bike path is receiving a helpful boost.

The Hocking Valley Scenic Trail is getting $250,000 from the “Local Parks, Recreation and Conservation Projects” fund, administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

This will be a paved bike trail running alongside the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway. The trail’s Nelsonville terminus will be at the railway depot. The Hocking County Commissioners have led the planning and grant-seeking efforts on this trail project.

Nonprofit benefiting Appalachian teens gets aid

The iBELIEVE Foundation is a nonprofit that hosts summer workshops and other events to serve teenagers in Appalachia. Weeklong workshops are held at college campuses throughout the summer and teach participants about leadership and communication skills.

“Ultimately, our ambitious goal is to increase collegiate attendance and retention across the 13-state Appalachian region,” the iBELIEVE website states.

Among the workshops is one to be held at OU’s Athens campus July 21-25.

The state budget provides iBELIEVE with $200,000 in each of the next two years toward its services.

Appalachian Assistance $

The budget provides funding for an array of programs and offices benefitting the region — all under a line item called “Appalachia Assistance,” totaling $15 million in each of the next two years.

The Governor’s Office of Appalachia is among the entities receiving some of that money. Led by former state legislator John Carey, the office is based in Columbus but serves 32 counties in the Appalachian region of Ohio.

Funding also pays for the Buckeye Hills Regional Council, of which Athens County and the city of Athens are members.

The money pays for Ohio’s dues into the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership that provides grant funding to various infrastructure projects. The state’s budget allows for some of this money to be used to match, when needed, the ARC project funding.

Lastly, $5 million goes toward the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, a Nelsonville-based organization with philanthropic ties to the entire region. This foundation also serves 32 Appalachian counties through grant and scholarship funding.

Other projects in area get help

A number of other entities in Southeast Ohio will receive funding through the state budget for facility improvements. Among them:

  • Wellston Pride Park in Jackson County ($225,000)
  • Gallipolis Railroad Freight Station Museum Restoration in Gallia County ($125,000)
  • Marietta Armory Revitalization in Washington County ($100,000)
  • Jackson Manpower Park in Jackson County ($75,000)

Also of note is $100,000 earmarked toward a “Levi Scofield Mansion Transformation” project in Cleveland. Scofield is a famed architect whose first-ever project was designing the expansive mental hospital complex in Athens now known as The Ridges.

Note: The original version of this story identified a $1.5 million budget allocation as going toward OU's Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. (The budget states only that the funds are used for "Ohio University's Voinovich School.) An OU spokesperson has clarified the money is actually going to that Voinovich Academy for Excellence in Public Service, which was recently launched by the Voinovich School. This story has been updated to reflect that clarification. 

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