Hike funding

Local leaders ponder wish list of uses for new state funding | New

LOGAN — On Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law House Bill 377, landmark legislation that will invest $500 million in Ohio’s 32 Appalachian counties. The next day, citizens and leaders of Hocking County gathered to share ideas on the best local projects to fund from this big pot.

As befits an early-stage brainstorming session, they came up with a long list of areas for local investment, but some ideas stood out for how often they were mentioned. These included local workforce development to retain the county’s best and brightest young people; the clearing of dilapidated buildings and horrors and the creation of new family housing; and various improvements for local police, fire and emergency services.

Addressing the more than 60 people who showed up for the session at the Olde Dutch restaurant on Wednesday evening, Logan Mayor Greg Fraunfelter stressed that he was still very early in the process of finding the money from the l ‘State. The purpose of the meeting, he suggested, was to compile a broad list of possible project ideas that can be summarized through a series of similar meetings, to eventually come up with a short list of high-priority items that are both feasible and probable. to meet state funding approval.

“Tonight is (a view from) about 30,000 feet,” Fraunfelter explained. “The next meeting will be at 20,000 feet, because we will have to refine (the proposals). And then the next meeting will be at ten o’clock, and then we’ll probably come down at five o’clock. Because we have to look at the things that we can actually achieve.

He also pointed out that the community will have a chance to apply for any projects they wish to see funded through HB 377.

“When we make the request, all we want to do has to be in that request,” he explained after the meeting. “Even if something is out of the box, it has to be in this application. We can’t reapply every time we get something new. You have to do it all at once. »

HB 377, according to the state, is intended to help unite Appalachian communities around local transformational projects focused on three areas:

• infrastructure, including downtown development

• health care, such as school or community services to address physical and behavioral health; and

• workforce development, including public-private partnerships to build and coordinate skills training.

According to information from state officials that was shared at the meeting by the Buckeye Hills Regional Council, guidelines for the HB 377-funded Appalachian Community Grant Program are still being developed and will likely be available in 30 days. Eligible applicants will include local governments and development districts; no decision has been made on which nonprofits, if any, will be eligible.

The program will focus on projects that can establish links between its three priority areas (infrastructure, health and workforce); are evidence-based; use public/private partnerships; demonstrate long-term economic viability/sustainability; and have a transformative impact on the region. It will not fund water and sewer projects.

There will be several rounds of funding over the next 18 months, with most early funding focused on planning. Projects will be ranked by a points system. There will be no matchmaking requirement, but applicants must demonstrate that they can contribute in other ways, such as supporting community groups.

Participants at Wednesday’s meeting broke into three groups to brainstorm ideas, which a group leader then shared with the larger congregation. As more than one speaker noted, there was considerable overlap across the three lists, suggesting that there is consensus on certain areas of need that should be addressed in the county and its communities.

The lists show “a lot of the same themes, which is pretty cool,” suggested Monte Bainter, Logan-Hocking Schools superintendent and one of the group leaders. Fraunfelter agreed.

“Most of us had the same ideas,” he observed.

Project areas that came up repeatedly among the group included:

Workforce development. This broadly covers efforts to provide training and employment opportunities that will enable more of the region’s promising young people to stay and work here. Fraunfelter suggested that in his opinion, this should be one of the highest priorities on which to spend the county’s HB 377 funds.

“One thing we’re talking about is keeping the kids here,” observed the mayor. “I call it the brain drain. We have a brain drain because we haven’t worked hard enough to keep industry and business here, and each of us sitting here has a responsibility for that.

One specific idea along these lines, reported by Logan City Council member Robert “Bozz” Salizzoni, was “eventually putting a trade school in our school system, and having that trade school here, so that we have these people coming back to the county as well, and living here, staying here and building our county even more.

Group leader Audie Wykle, director of the Hocking County Regional Planning Office, echoed that notion, noting that his think tank also focused heavily on workforce readiness.

“What we’re looking for are people we can keep in town, smart, bright young people we can keep in town,” he said. “We’re going to have a prison, we’re going to have a hospital, we’re going to have schools, we’re going to have needs for all these professions… (which) are going to need young, intelligent and brilliant people.”

Improved first responder services. A number of specific proposals have addressed this issue, including the establishment of an EMS station at Old Man’s Cave; install an EMS station in Murray City or elsewhere in that part of the county; providing new equipment for all county fire departments; and the creation of a public safety training center for first responders.

The latter, Salizzoni said, would be “for EMS, firefighters and police. It’s a shooting range, a ropes course, a fire tower, so we can train in our own county… and not have to go outside the county.

Another possible project mentioned was a public safety wellness center for first responder personnel. “A lot of people don’t realize that our first responders, everyone from sheriff to police departments to firefighters, that would be very important to them,” Salizzoni explained. “Because they’re going through a lot and dealing with a lot of stress, and that would be a big plus for the county.”

Improve building infrastructure. Specific proposals that were presented under this heading included making it easier for the county and cities to demolish crumbling homes and buildings and supporting the creation of more affordable single-family housing.

Wykle said his group talks about the need to “tear down destroyed buildings…because we want to look at a mechanism to put in place to take care of these buildings which are eyesores, which are dangerous, which could be cleaned up, which could be refurbished.” A related need, he said, is the “development of residential starter homes, family homes, for people… who want to stay in town.”

Downtown revitalization, for Logan and county villages, has been the subject of a number of specific proposals, including sponsorship of public artwork and murals; completion of the Logan Theater renovation; eliminate parking on the north side of Main Street in Logan for outdoor dining and expand sidewalks; create more pedestrian-friendly boulevards; increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations in Logan; creation of a downtown parking lot for Logan; and provide free Wi-Fi to downtown businesses.

Other ideas were floated at the meeting: putting a roof over the stands at the county fairgrounds; creation of a hiking trail from Mingo Park to Kachelmacher Park; extension of the bike path from Logan to Nelsonville; creation of a dog park; and the creation of community gardens.

Fraunfelter closed the meeting by promising to compile and share a list of ideas brought forward during the meeting, roughly ranked by how often they were mentioned. He also indicated that in his opinion there is a unifying theme for all the proposed projects.

“The problem is that we all realize that all of this is economic development,” he said. “It all goes together. And you can’t get it without all of those things coming together.