Governor John Kasich has signed the capital budget, a $2.4 billion funding bill for infrastructure and building projects at public facilities and schools around the state.
“Earmark” has become a dirty word in some circles, but basically the capital budget is a giant collection of earmarks—cash the state of Ohio approves every two years for specific local projects. Following 2014 to 2016, more than $27 million will go to the Miami Valley for 40 projects, but not everyone got what they wanted.
Springfield leaders got the red light on major funds for a downtown parking garage they say will cost between $9 and $10 million. Their request for $3 million in state aid resulted in a $250,000 appropriation in the final bill.
“$250,000 doesn’t get you very far,” says Tom Franzen, assistant city manager for the City of Springfield. “We could build maybe a three-car garage.”
There’s plenty of space downtown, but Springfield’s office workers want parking that’s close to new developments and jobs like those at Clark Schaefer Hackett and Code Blue.
“When you talk to prospects looking at locating employment downtown, the first thing we talk about is parking,” says Mike McDorman with the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
Regardless, those 480 new parking spots are stalled until the next capital budget and it’s not clear with the city will do with the money it will receive. Franzen says he thinks they’ll use it to study the proposed site.
In December 2013, the Dayton Development Coalition submitted a list of recommendations for the capital budget, which was then whittled down by legislators. Its largest request was rejected—the mysterious “Project Elwood,” a $2 million downtown development for an unnamed nonprofit to expand operations. Michael Gessel with the DDC says he’s not sure why the project was passed over, but he believes it’s because it was a difficult project to include in the bond-funding structure the capital budget depends on.
“The state did a very careful vetting of each project,” said Gessel. “It wasn’t passed over with prejudice, but the judgment call was all on the technical ability to fund the project.”