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Major local projects would benefit from $40M officials requested from the state

Communities from all corners of Butler County have made capital budget requests from state lawmakers for projects that, in many cases, will attract new visitors to the region.

Butler County Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director Mark Hecquet called it “exciting” to see all this activity because it’s “an indication of how our county is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state.”

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Communities and organizations had until last month to submit capital budget requests to lawmakers in hopes that their project will be funded. Two years ago, eight of the 10 capital budget requests from Butler County received some funding, including the Boys & Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty which is one of the biggest clubs in the state.

“It was a godsend,” said Patti Alderson, the board director for the club, and a top official with the Ohio Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs. Though it was a “daunting process” because of the time it took to actually receive the money and the paperwork involved, “It’s worth every penny of it.”

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The Boys & Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty was a $6.8 million project, and the state granted it $300,000.

And not only did the Butler County coalition of state lawmakers support the project, so did others from the surrounding area, such as Rep. Jonathan Devers, R-Madeira, and then-Rep. Ron Maag, R-Lebanon.

Hecquet said in addition to the excitement of the prospect of several projects around that county that will bring in others from outside the community moving forward, “It’s very important that communities look at the value of bringing tourists to the county. It adds more depth to the products we have to offer.”

Hamilton, Fairfield, Middletown, Oxford and Monroe have all requested capital budget funds, as well as community organizations such as those working to save the Sorg Opera House in Middletown, Start Skydiving & Research Center in Middletown, Butler Tech and Miami University. They have collectively requested nearly $41.5 million.

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Not all of the 17 projects requesting funding are tourist-based, but many are, including Hamilton’s Champion Mill Conference and Events Center. The city, and its partners in the project, are asking the state to fund $5 million of the $33 million conference and event center, which is part of the greater $150 million redevelopment project in the city.

Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said he believes the sizable request is “appropriate due to the size of the actual project.”

“We believe that return will come in a very short time frame,” he said.

The biggest request comes from Miami University in Oxford, which had four included. However, the largest request is for the renovation of Pearson Hall, which will help rehabilitate the university’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, facilities. The school is asking for $19.5 million for this project, as well as another $1.8 million for three other projects.

The largest request from Middletown is for the Start Indoor Skydiving & Aerospace Research Center at the Middletown Regional Airport. The organization is asking for $5 million in research and development grant funds to develop aerospace research and development and education.

The project is slated to be $32 million, and the center will be able to hold large class field trips, according to the proposal.

These project requests are just a fraction of the thousands made by all 99 Ohio House and 33 Ohio Senate members lobbying for a piece of the projected $2 billion capital budget fund. Two years ago the budget was proposed at $2.6 billion, and not all requests made were granted.

Ohio Rep. Scott Ryan, R-Granville Twp., will introduce the 2019-2020 capital budget bill at the end of this month, according to legislative aides at his office. The Ohio Senate will introduce its companion bill through Senate Finance Chairman Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, around the same time, said Ohio Senate spokesman John Fortney.

Fortney said the important thing is for the projects to be bondable, or else they cannot be funded.

“The main thing is they’re reviewing the projects,” he said. Eventually, Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof and Ohio Speaker Cliff Rosenberger will meet so “everyone is on the same page” when the bill is introduced.

The hope is to get the bill passed and signed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich by the end of March, Fortney said.

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