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Millions in state funding heads to Portage for KSU, AxessPointe and more

By: Diane Smith, Ravenna Record-Courier
July 2, 2024
Gail K. Pavliga News

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Millions of dollars in state funding are headed to Portage County, with some allocations larger than originally thought.

The Ohio House of Representatives has approved Substitute House Bill 2, the state’s two-year construction budget for capital projects throughout the state. State Rep. Gail Pavliga of Portage County said statewide, the bill will allocate more than $4.2 billion for capital projects, including $717 million in one-time project funding from the Strategic Community Investment Fund.

Ohio is sitting on $700 million in cash thanks to a federal funding tsunami during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ohio House and Ohio Senate agreed that each chamber would decide how $350 million would be spent.

In February, a list of various projects slated to receive state funding was announced. Last week's list of funded projects is much the same except that two projects are receiving high funding amounts than originally thought − Axess Pointe in Ravenna and Safety Town in Kent.

Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill on Friday.

Millions headed to Kent State University

The largest share of Portage County's funding is headed to Kent State University, which is slated to receive $29 million for various projects on the Kent campus and nearly $30 million for its branch campuses. Kent projects include improvements to White Hall, the KSU library and elevators throughout the campus.

Kent State spokeswoman Emily Vincent previously said trustees recently approved several projects as part of the university's six-year capital plan, which outlined 11 projects to be undertaken throughout the eight-campus system over the next two years.

The state is allocating $10 million toward renovations at White Hall, which houses KSU's College of Education, Health and Human Services. Although some mechanical systems were renovated in 2021 using capital funding, the rest of the HVAC systems in the building are more than 50 years old.

The renovation would include a quieter HVAC system, which KSU states is more conducive to teaching, work and research. The project also includes classroom improvements, according to the plan.

The budget also calls for $6 million in funding for improvements to the main library on the Kent campus. The library, built in the 1960s, houses the campus system's collection, offices and archives.

"The vision of the university libraries has changed with a major paradigm shift modeling the new digital landscape, and a new space master plan was undertaken in 2010," the plan states. The master plan has been updated over the past decade as projects have been undertaken.

An elevator study performed in 2020 details plans for modernization of existing elevators, as well as a study for a new high-speed elevator.

A separate $4 million project would address elevator modernization and accessibility upgrades around campus, such as stairs, ramps, toilet facilities and lecture halls. Many buildings on the campus were built in the 1960s and 1970s, before passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and don't comply with federal accessibility standards.

Other projects include more than $3 million for information technology network access enhancements in academic buildings on the Kent campus, and various upgrades planned at the Ashtabula, East Liverpool, Geauga, Salem, Stark, Trumbull and Tuscarawas campuses.

Axess Pointe readies Ravenna office

AxessPointe Community Health Centers plans to open a federally qualified health center in the Ravenna building that once housed the Portage County Health District.

Mark Frisone, CEO of AxessPointe, said the "one stop shop for health care" will include providers for pharmacy, dental, optometry, behavioral health and primary care. The Ravenna location also will focus on maternal care.

To make the project happen, Frisone needs to amass $3.5 million to $4 million in funding, and this allocation brings the project $500,000 closer to its goal than previously thought. Olivia Wile, press secretary for the Republican caucus in the statehouse, said the additional funding was approved by the senate.

AxessPointe also has locations in Kent, Akron and Barberton.

$1 million to NEOMED

Northeast Ohio Medical University is expected to receive $1 million in state funding, to be used for renovations at the Chiller Plant at the Rootstown campus.

Safety Town allocation doubles

Kent's Safety Town project, which previously was expected to receive $125,000 in funding, now will get $250,000.

The Kent Rotary Club is working to build the Safety Town project, club members said, and have been working to raise money for the project.

Other Portage projects

The bill outlines a number of other projects planned for various projects in Portage County, including parks, historical societies, mental health, public safety and animal rescue.

Serenity House Residential Facility is expected to receive $700,000. Pavliga previously said the funding would provide housing for vulnerable residents.

The Happy Trails Animal Sanctuary is slated to receive $500,000 for its Welcome Center.

Shalersville Park is expected to receive $225,000.

Other projects include:

$500,000 for the Kent Fire Department.
$274,396 to build an ADA compliant bathroom facility with changing tables near an all-inclusive playground at the Randolph Township Pavilion.
$225,000 for Shalersville Park.
$105,000 for the Freedom Historical Society for a display of working farm equipment.
$51,000 for improvements to Buchert Park in Mantua.
$40,000 for HVAC improvements at Children's Advantage.
$27,000 for Windham Historical Society to digitize historical records.
$12,700 for the renovation of four township cemeteries.