$5 million in Ohio capital budget appears to be headed to Clinton County

By Gary Huffenberger - ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com

WILMINGTON — Ohio’s capital budget, introduced last week in the Statehouse, directs more than $5 million toward Clinton County projects.

The projects in the county that would receive the largest amount of capital budget funds are located on the Laurel Oaks Career Campus at $1.5 million, and the Wilmington Air Park at $1 million.

Other projects listed in Ohio Legislative Service Commission documents are $750,000 for Murphy Theatre improvements; $250,000 for the Clinton County Fairgrounds; $250,000 for a Clinton County to Little Miami Scenic Trail connector (funds that may be utilized in Warren County); $250,000 for City of Wilmington parks; $250,000 for a Police and Fire Memorial; and $200,000 for Clinton-Warren Joint Fire District improvements related to training.

The total Clinton County appropriations are $4,450,000. When a re-appropriated sum of $700,000 for a Luther Warren Peace Path extension is added, the amount increases to $5,150,000.

Although the companion bills regarding capital appropriations and re-appropriations for fiscal years 2019-20, as introduced Feb. 26 in the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate, are not yet law, the expectation is there probably will be few changes.

The largest award of funds in the county would go toward Laurel Oaks.

“The $1.5 million is toward a planned $10-12 million building project at Laurel Oaks intended to make the campus safer (by connecting several buildings so students don’t have to walk outside to get to some classrooms), adding some classrooms and labs for workforce development programs, and providing some community meeting space,” said Jon Weidlich, community relations director with Great Oaks Career Campuses.

The planning, he said, is “kind of preliminary at this point, because the rest of the funding is up in the air until our 2.7-mills levy, which expires in 2019, is renewed.”

Great Oaks President and CEO Harry Snyder said the $1.5 million on the Ohio capital budget list demonstrates Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger’s understanding of the positive impact of career technical education on his community.

The proposed project at the air park involves the construction of an Airport Facilities and Equipment Maintenance complex, and about 10,000 square feet of office space. The Clinton County Port Authority, which owns and manages the air park, sought $1.8 million in the capital budget and looks to receive $1 million.

The project’s total cost is estimated at $3.7 million, and the Port Authority has stated it would help finance it.

“Our plan going forward is to relocate LGSTX Services, Inc. into the majority of this space if we are able to successfully proceed,” Port Authority Executive Director Daniel G. Evers said for a News Journal report in January.

The funds for the Clinton County Fairground are expected to be spent on campground improvements there, and for a new HVAC (Heating, Venting, Air Conditioning) system for Expo Hall and replacing that building’s roof. If funds are left over, they could go toward upgrading the fencing around the equestrian show ring.

The funds for the Clinton County to Little Miami Scenic Trail connector would go toward construction of a bike trail between Morrow in Warren County and Clarksville in Clinton County, said Clinton Trails Coalition President Bruce Saunders. The Coalition already owns about seven miles of abandoned railroad corridor between those two villages, he said.

Morrow, of course, is part of the Little Miami Scenic Trail, which reportedly is the third longest paved trail in the United States, running 78 miles through five southwest Ohio counties. As noted above, Saunders anticipates these new funds will go toward the Warren County leg of the Clinton County connector to the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

Wilmington Parks & Recreation Director Jermaine Isaac said the funds to the city parks would be a good kick start for plans to build a new wooden playground to replace the current one that’s more than 25 years old. The funds may also go to other capital improvements, he said.

A spokesman for Rosenberger said some local police and fire personnel reached out to the legislator about creating a memorial because Clinton County does not currently have one. The capital budget directs funding to go toward creating one, he said.

Clinton-Warren Joint Fire District Chief Bob Wysong said if the district receives the dollars listed to go it it, they want to add training capacity and make site improvements that would complement the newly built burn tower training facility.

The $700,000 in the re-appropriations category toward extending the Luther Warren Peace Path is slated for use in a planned project to extend the popular trail to the unincorporated village of Ogden in Adams Township (Clinton County), said Saunders.

Three trail bridges will need to be built between Wilmington and Ogden, Saunders said. Construction of those bridges will be a “big expense,” the Clinton Trails Coalition president said.

Applications will be written for Clean Ohio Fund grants in hopes of receiving further funds for the extension, he said.

Saunders said the coalition is always looking for new board members, and can always use more help with its multiple projects. They meet the second Thursday of every month; his email is brucesaunders@gmail.com .

The News Journal did not immediately obtain details on plans for the funds that would go toward Murphy Theatre improvements.

A nearby project listed to receive capital budget funds is $350,000 for the Lynchburg covered bridge.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.


By Gary Huffenberger