ASHLAND -- Organizations across Ashland County will receive more than $1.7 million in state funding to support 11 community projects, including four that Mayor Matt Miller says will be transformative for downtown Ashland.
On Wednesday, Sen. President Larry Obhof introduced the state's capital budget, a $2.1 billion investment in Ohio's schools, infrastructure, public services and local community projects.
The budget includes $500,000 from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission for the Schine's Theatre restoration, $200,000 for Main Street Plaza, $150,000 for a Meadow and Mindfulness Trail at the former Pump House property and $38,000 for the beginning of Center Run Trail near Ashland County's Corner Park.
The bill is expected to be voted on by the legislature Thursday.
"The Ashland community can not thank Senate president Larry Obhof enough for the role he has played in bringing back to life Schine's Theatre," Miller said. "It is because of him going to bat for us that this happened."
Previously, state funding was used to renovate the exterior of the historic theatre at 216 Center Street. A renovated version of the theatre's iconic marquee was hung last November and lit shortly before Christmas.
Miller anticipates the $500,000 will be used to renovate the interior.
"With this grant, I can say the opening we're all looking forward to is on the horizon."
The mayor estimates Main Street Plaza, which is to receive $200,000 in state funding, could open by Memorial Day. The 9,000 square-foot downtown park will feature brick walls and three, life-sized bronze statues. There will also be a black iron archway installed at the entrance, featuring the yet-to-be-announced name of the plaza.
The $150,000 for the Pump House Meadow and Mindfulness Trail serves as an indication of what's to come at the former Pump House property on Fourth Street. The city has expressed intentions to transform the now vacant lot into an urban meadow and is expected to release further details in early 2020.
The $38,000 for Ashland County's Corner Park will help fund the first segment of the city's proposed Center Run Trail. The pathway is to begin at Broad Street behind Corner Park and continue across Claremont Avenue to Center Street.
"Over the last two years, the city has worked with nonprofit community organizations and private donors to make these projects a reality, and this funding from the state was the last component that needed to fall into place for these projects to come to fruition," Miller said.
Additionally within the City of Ashland, Freer Field is to receive $300,000 to renovate the barn. The upper level may be made into a reservable facility, a restroom will be added, and parking will be reconfigured outside.
"This grant is really what makes this project possible. We work from a levy, and with the amount of funding needed for this project, we would have needed many years," director Stephanie Featheringill said.
Other projects receiving significant amounts include the Loudonville Opera House and Black River Community Multi-Use Facility. Both will receive $200,000 for improvements.
"We always appreciate Senator Obhof's office. This will be the second time he's given that kind of money," Loudonville Mayor Steve Stricklen said about the funding for the Opera House.
Previously, state funding helped cover other projects at the Loudonville Opera House.
"We're planning to go to the inside of the building with this, I believe," Stricklen said.
Improvements would include replacing the plaster ceiling in the theatre. Work would begin as soon as the money is received.
Other projects included in the $1,776,000 include Perrysville Weltmer Park Upgrades, Jeromesville Square Park, Jeromesville Community Garden and the Jeromesville Totem Pole.
“The state capital budget plays a major role in making needed improvements to our hometowns while at the same time creating jobs and growing our economy," Obhof said in a press release. “Although we have faced serious challenges this year, sound fiscal management of the state’s finances have put us in a position to provide this stimulus into our local economies."