2 county projects in state capital bill

Published 11:23 am Thursday, March 20, 2014

Two of the capital projects on the wish list of county and Ironton leaders have passed the first hurdles to getting some funding from the state.

Currently the proposed capital improvement bill includes a $325,000 allotment for the proposed Ohio River Research and Development Center at The Point industrial park in South Point and $100,000 for the Ironton Cultural Arts Center, part of the Ro-Na Theatre restoration.

Missing the cut was a proposed walking trail at the Ohio University Southern-Proctorville Center.

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“I am absolutely thrilled,” Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship said about the Ro-Na funding. “Anytime we can get funds from the state for a good cause. In recent years the state has not allocated any money for capital bills. We applied for that project for the ongoing renovations.”

For several years volunteers have worked to restore the Ro-Na, once a jewel in downtown Ironton, especially the grass-roots organization, Friends of Ironton.

“I attribute to the Friends of Ironton and all the volunteers for keeping that project alive and moving it forward,” Blankenship said.

Ballpark estimate for the entire restoration is $5 million. Blankenship has also applied for federal funds, but the city hasn’t received any.

“I am just thankful Lawrence County is in the capital bill,” he said.

Creating a research and development park at The Point has been a long-term goal for county economic development leaders.

“There is a 20-acre plot that someday I see it being a R and D park,” Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, has said. “I think R and D should be an important part of a company and I think if you have a place where you have planned one, you position yourself with international companies.”

The LEDC and the Lawrence County Port Authority requested $3 million from the $1 billion capital bill that will provide funding to schools and state agencies.

The money in the capital bill will go toward developing a plan to create the park.

“We are very pleased with the state recognizing the needs of Lawrence County to move more into research and development and business incubation,” Dingus said on Thursday.

A committee made up of business leaders would be formed to create the preliminary plan and would be headed up by Dr. Scott Howard.

“We are happy the people upstate are passing out money and helping us in the lower end of the state,” Lawrence County Commission President Les Boggs said. “We appreciate that. Obviously, it is important to the people of Ironton and at The Point that is going to generate a lot of jobs in the long run. That will be a great benefit to The Point and Lawrence County and will help with job creation. It is always good to get some of your own money back in your own area. We especially want to thank Sen. Bob Peterson, Sen. Joe Uecker, Rep. Ryan Smith and Rep. Terry Johnson.”

The capital bill is now in the House Finance and Appropriations Committee where it will undergo a series of hearings. The bill must pass the General Assembly and be signed by the governor before proposed allotments become a reality.