Athens County Gets Nearly $26 Million In State Capital Funds

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The state capital budget that was signed by Gov. John Kasich late Tuesday allocates nearly $26 million for public higher education and arts institutions in Athens County.

Ohio University will receive $21,625,000 in state capital funding with the biggest ticket item being $6 million for campus roadway improvements. Other projects include roof repairs, HVAC repair, upgrades to classrooms, electric systems, utility tunnels, and the College of Fine Arts’ infrastructure. The capital budget also includes campus accessibility improvements, building envelope restorations and funds for the Athens Center for Art and Healing on the OU campus.

Hocking College will receive $3.5 million under the new capital bill. That includes $1.25 million for renovations for the college’s Workforce Development and Training Center; $1 million for sidewalk lighting and renovations; plus money for security, chiller and plumbing repairs and roof repairs.

The capital bill also included funds for two major arts venues in the county — Stuart’s Opera House and the Dairy Barn Arts Center.

The Dairy Barn will receive $200,000 for its Second Century Project. Dairy Barn Executive Director Jane Forrest Redfern said that the state money will be included in the facility’s $750,000 capital campaign to update and restore the 100-year-old barn. This will include restoring the corners of the barn, purchasing new carpet for the gallery, creating a new gallery shop and classroom space and energy efficiency improvements.

Forrest Redfern said the Dairy Barn is seeking support from the community to raise the remainder of the funds for the needed projects.

Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville has been allocated $500,000 in the capital bill. Stuart’s Executive Director Tim Peacock said that the opera house is currently in the silent phase of fundraising campaign to expand the venue’s lobby and backstage area and to create educational space. The nonprofit performing arts organization has not yet released how much it hopes to raise nor how much it has already raised for the campaign.

Peacock said he is thankful to the governor and state representatives for the much-needed capital funds.

The nearly $2.4 billion state capital bill was approved by the Ohio Senate with a 30-1 vote on Tuesday. According to the Associated Press, the bill includes $675 million for primary and secondary schools in the state, as well as $455 million for public colleges and universities.

The AP reports that road, bridge, sewer and other infrastructure projects would get $369 million. Another $574 million goes for maintenance, renovation and other projects at state-owned facilities, including parks and prisons. An additional $100 million goes to the Clean Ohio preservation program.

The proposal includes about $160 million in community projects, according to the AP.

Kasich's administration estimates that projects funded under the bill would create 31,000 jobs over several years.