State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) today highlighted some of the community projects that won funding in the 2016 capital budget over the Youngstown Air Reserve Station (YARS)’s request to create a Regional Joint Readiness Center (RJRC) to provide a central point for deploying reservists. The request centered on the cargo apron and hangar that reservists from the 910th Airlift Wing would immediately utilize.
According the Vindicator, the Federal Aviation Administration financed an $11.5 million 13-acre paved cargo apron area on the west side of the airport in 1999. A private developer built a building for airport cargo shipping next to it, but both facilities have remained practically unused since. On a recent visit to the area, U.S. military officials expressed interest in the idea of using the cargo apron and building as a deployment hub for troops and other military assets from all branches of the military from Northeast Ohio as well as nearby portions of neighboring states.
“I’m really surprised that the initial introduction of the capital bill placed ‘pork’ ahead of Ohio’s patriots,” Rep. Boccieri said. “The irony is almost pathetic – legislators want to construct a fifty-foot statue of the Wright brother’s first airplane ahead of prioritizing a project that will have an immediate impact on deploying soldiers who fly out of the Air Reserve Station.”
Instead of appropriating even one dollar to Western Reserve Port Authority, the legislature is on track to give $80,000 to the Bowling Green Curling Club and $500,000 toward a soccer stadium in Columbus. In addition, the state is granting the full funding amount requested by the Madcap Production for a new puppet theater, and $1 million to the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum for a single exhibit.
The Youngstown Air Reserve Station is the third largest employer in the Mahoning Valley and, unlike the private sector, must justify its continued existence in front of a Base Realignment and Closure Committee at the federal level. This project could cement the base as a joint station for all branches of the military as a deployment hub, and create an even larger economic impact, which currently exceeds $100 million.
“We certainly should prioritize our soldiers ahead of a puppet theater and statue of the Wright brothers’ first airplane,” Rep. Boccieri said. “I hope that there is the political will and foresight with an amendment to realign taxpayer dollars away from these projects and toward our soldiers.”