WILMINGTON — Trying to get the word out on a budget bill that helps pay for local infrastructure improvements, State Sen. Bob Peterson (R-17th District) stopped by Wednesday at the Clinton County Courthouse.
Officials from the City of Wilmington, Village of Blanchester and the Little Hearts Big Smiles nonprofit group were there to hear Peterson talk about the particulars of the upcoming 2016 Capital Improvement Budget Bill (Capital Budget).
The two municipalities and the nonprofit organization are all eyeing proposed projects that involve playground facilities. It’s also possible Clinton County will seek state assistance for a third new emergency radio system tower, perhaps in conjunction with Fayette and Highland Counties.
Wilmington City Parks & Recreation Director Lori Kersey Williams identified three projects: replacing playground equipment that’s more than 40 years old; constructing restroom facilities near the J.W. Denver Williams Jr. Memorial Park shelterhouses; and adding site amenities for the city’s planned splash park and skate park.
Blanchester Parks & Recreation board member Tina Fisher and a village parks staffer want to tackle “outdated playground equipment,” an “ill-lit” walking track, and to install fitness equipment near the walking track.
“The track is utilized a lot by moms who like to walk and jog while their kids practice ball. Fitness equipment would make the track more adult-friendly,” said Fisher.
As reported Tuesday, Little Hearts Big Smiles plans to seek Capital Budget state bond funds for handicap-accessible restrooms at the group’s all-children playground on county-owned land off Five Avenue. Organizers say the inclusive playground, designed in particular for children with special needs, has become a destination point for residents in a region that goes beyond Clinton County alone.
Little Hearts Big Smiles Executive Director Barry Wulf said their restroom project is estimated to cost $110,000. Williams said the city’s three projects total $350,000.
Peterson said local project proposals are “easier for us [legislators] to sell” in Columbus when there’s a local pledge to match the state dollars, mentioning a 50-50 match or better.
The other local project mentioned Wednesday — a new public safety communications tower — would supplement a new digital emergency radio system that was activated in Clinton County in summer 2015. Presently, the system has new towers in Clarksville and north of New Vienna.
According to the Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) website, during the last Capital Budget cycle for fiscal years 2015 and 2016, Clinton County projects were awarded $200,000. The recipients were The Murphy Theatre at $150,000 and the Clinton County Farmer’s and Sportsman’s Association at $50,000.
In the Capital Improvement Budget Bill for fiscal years 2013 and 2014, no dollars were awarded to a project within Clinton County, according to a State of Ohio government website.
Ohio’s biennial Capital Budget is enacted in each even-numbered year, and provides appropriations for the repair, reconstruction and construction of the state’s capital assets, according to the OBM’s website.
In some years, funds also may be allocated for community projects of local or regional interest, the OBM website adds.
“In general, funding for state highways, bridges and other transportation construction is appropriated through the biennial Transportation Budget, enacted in odd-numbered years,” continues the OBM website.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.