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Big county projects set to receive big dollars from the state

Butler County is set to get big money for big projects in the proposed capital budget bill released Tuesday afternoon.

House Bill 497, which is a capital projects funding bill introduced on Tuesday afternoon, proposes to allocate nearly $2.39 billion in public money to fund public projects around the state.

Butler County will receive more than $25.5 million in new funding, though Miami University is set to receive more than $23.5 million for projects at its three Butler County campuses. The lion’s share of the university’s funding will practically pay for all of the renovations at Shideler Hall.

MetroParks of Butler County is set to receive $2 million to be invested equally in West Chester Twp. and Middletown. And there are several other projects around the county, mostly in Hamilton, set up to receive state funds to help grow the state’s eighth largest county.

“The universities, including Miami, really do depend on the funding because our facilities constantly need updates,” said Claire Wagner, spokeswoman for Miami University. “(The public) can trust what we do with the money we receive from the state is spent wisely.”

The Journal-News reported Wednesday how the proposed state capital projects budget and highlighted some arts and educational projects, but a deeper look in the omnibus bill shows the state funds will touch several parts of the county.

More than 90 percent of Miami University’s share will be invested in renovations for Shideler Hall, the building that houses the campus’ geology and geography departments. The renovation project, which is set to be $22.7 million, will upgrade the building’s Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics research facilities at the nearly 50-year-old building.

Receiving the state money will allow the state university to “continue to upgrade … and to meet the curriculum requirements for 2014 and beyond,” Wagner said.

The university’s main two regional campuses, Middletown and Hamilton, are slated to receive a collective $1.4 million in new funding, which Perry Richardson, spokesman for the regional campuses, said will give the school a competitive advantage.

Mosler Hall in Hamilton is set to receive $800,000 for renovations, according to the budget bill.

“Our science labs … they’re used by most of the academic departments on campus, and these labs have been in operation since the campus opened (in the late 1960s),” Richardson said. “(The labs) are just not conducive to modern teaching techniques; they’re antiquated. We need to have our students use technology that’s needed and demanded by current employers.”

The Gardner-Harvey Library in Middletown will undergo a technology upgrade in addition to some physical improvements, Richardson said. The state is proposing to award $500,000 for that improvement.

The construction of the Miami projects is slated for the summer, which is typical for any heavy construction projects, Richardson said.

The university will also receive an additional $1.14 million in reappropriated funds for renovations around the Oxford campus and the Middletown regional campus.

The Miami University Hamilton campus is also receiving $100,000 for The Mill, a business incubator project that is a collaborative effort between Miami, the city of Hamilton and BizTech. Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, helped to champion the projects at Miami University Hamilton and others around his district.

Retherford said The Mill will help establish and grow start-up companies, using empty buildings around Hamilton.

“When it’s all said and done, it’s going to be another tool for Hamilton to get more people to invest and grow businesses in Hamilton,” he said. “I’m just pleased with the success that we’ve had, and hopefully, having these added investments in the community will be a great asset. I want to make sure our community is taken care of, and this particular budget bill is a way to do so.”

Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said the city has had “a long, proud manufacturing history and its strength was always local ownership of companies.”

“The Mill is slated to be a Hamilton-based regional innovation hub that wants to leverage the strengths of local banks, universities, businesses and investors to organically grow 21st Century companies, with a focus in advanced manufacturing, food/beverage, information technology and clean technology,” Smith said. “We believe The Mill will better connect our community to the national ecosystem while encouraging start-up companies to stay and grow in Hamilton.”

Retherford and state representatives Tim Derickson and Margy Conditt had worked together to help provide some state funds for Butler Tech’s bio-science project, a $17 million building project of which $13 million has already been designated for the health and bio-science campus for high school and adult students.

“The seed money for the Butler Tech bio-science project will provide workforce development for the health care community on the (Interstate) 75 corridor,” said Conditt. “This is an exciting community project with both public and private support that will benefit youth, adults as well as our local businesses.”

Retherford said the amount of growth that’s anticipated to come from the Butler Tech project “is going to impact more than just the West Chester Twp. area.”

MetroParks of Butler County is set to receive $2 million of the Butler County’s portion of the capital budget funds. Half of the money is designated to be invested in the Voice of America Multipurpose Field and Athletic Complex and the other half is earmarked for the Middletown River Center.

The River Center project, which MetroParks will partner with the city of Middletown, will build on the city’s revitalization efforts over the last few years.

“Capital funding by the state will result in an immediately usable asset for the city of Middletown and MetroParks,” according to a press release issued by MetroParks. “The project will support redevelopment of an underutilized area, will encourage increased commerce, provide space for meetings, festivals and general trail based recreation, all with easy access to the Great Miami River.

The state funds will help complete the first phase of the Voice of America project, according to MetroParks. It’s slated to be open this fall and is designed as a sports tournament facility to support drawing regional events.

The athletic complex, which is located within the Interstate 75 corridor in West Chester Twp., has the potential to generate $26 million dollars in annual economic impact for Butler County, according to MetroParks.

The complex will open 22 multipurpose natural grass fields that this fall, which will cost $3 million. The $1 million from the state will be utilized to install synthetic turf on three or four of the center nine fields.

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