Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Taft speaks favorably of city projects

Published: Thu, Dec 16, 2004

Funds are also sought for Stambaugh Auditorium and the symphony society.

BEXLEY, Ohio — Gov. Bob Taft says he believes the convocation center under construction in downtown Youngstown deserves state funding.

"That's a project I think ought to receive some funding" in the two-year capital bill to be unveiled in the Legislature early next year, Taft said Wednesday in an interview at his residence.

"I also believe that the [Youngstown] Business Incubator should also receive some significant funding," Taft said. "That's a good project as well."

Both projects were among those submitted by state lawmakers from the Mahoning Valley for consideration in the bill that funds construction projects around the state.


Area lawmakers are asking for $4.7 million to help fund construction of the convocation center. City officials and developers are overseeing construction of a 5,500-seat, $41 million multi-use center between the Market Street and South Avenue bridges in Youngstown. Major funding for the project has come from a federal grant.

Area lawmakers had also sought about $2 million in the bill for the business incubator to help develop a market-ready incubator next to the existing YBI. The business incubator helps develop high-tech companies in the area.

Taft, a Republican, said he's working with the new leaders of the Legislature to be seated in January to come to an agreement on the capital bill.

Taft said he anticipates introduction of the capital bill in late January and possible legislative action in late January or early February.

Incoming House Speaker Jon Husted, a Republican from suburban Dayton, said he was unsure of the status of the capital bill as lawmakers were wrapping up legislative items for the year.

One Youngstown-area lawmaker said he was unsure of the status of the state funding for the convocation center and other proposed projects.

"It was on our general request," state Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd.

Stambaugh and symphony

Hagan said he has received assurances that some funding for improvements at both the Henry H. Stambaugh Auditorium and the Youngstown Symphony Society would be included in the proposed capital bill.

Lawmakers had been seeking about $1.6 million for each of those projects. According to state officials, the symphony society had requested the funding to help build a 600-seat pavilion next to Edward W. Powers Auditorium at Federal and Chestnut streets.

Meanwhile, Stambaugh officials had requested funding for improvements to the interior and exterior of the Fifth Avenue facility and to buy new equipment, state officials said.

Most of the money in the $1 billion-plus capital bill goes for construction, renovation and maintenance projects at state colleges and universities, mental-health and retardation facilities, state government buildings and state parklands.

A certain amount of money — about $90 million in the last capital bill — is usually reserved for community projects such as sports stadiums, arenas and theaters.

The projects are paid for mainly by the sale of bonds, some of which are retired with general state revenues.


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