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Capital budget allocates over $7.2 million to Athens County (Updated) – Athens County Independent

Capital budget allocates over .2 million to Athens County (Updated) – Athens County Independent

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The state’s 2025-26 capital budget allocates more than $7.2 million for projects in Athens County.

According to a press release from Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), House Bill 2 allocated over $14.3 million to the 94th District. The district includes Athens, Meigs and Morgan counties, as well as southwest Washington County.

Edwards, chairman of the Ohio House of Representatives Finance Committee, expressed pride in securing further state funding for his district.

“One of the reasons I got so much attention on the campaign trail was that our district was really left out of the capital budgets,” Edwards said. “We were able to raise $14.3 million just for community projects, not counting the money… that’s your traditional capital budget, without all the other investments the state made in the operating budgets.”

Athens County will receive $745,000 for four local capital projects:

  • $350,000 for the Federal Valley Resource Center.
  • $100,000 to build a community park in Rome Township.
  • $260,000 for new playground equipment at Alexander Local Schools.
  • $35,000 for the revitalization of Stuart’s Opera House. “We are very grateful for this government support, which allows us to continue the necessary preservation and maintenance of this historic building and cherished cultural landmark,” Stuart’s executive director Melissa Wales said in an email statement.

In addition, the county will receive one-time funding totaling over $6.5 million from House Bill 2’s Strategic Community Investment Fund for a number of projects, including:

  • $250,000 to renovate the Nelsonville-York Elementary School playground.
  • $250,000 for the York Township Volunteer Fire Department.
  • $139,731 for the Nelsonville Dog Park.
  • $100,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Athens.
  • $100,000 for the Buchtel Village Park project.

Training center

One of the biggest expenses in Athens County is start-up funding for the Athens Regional Training Center, a project that has been years in the making, Edwards said. The center will primarily be a training facility for firefighters as well as other emergency personnel such as paramedics and police officers.

“This is a regional project that will impact our entire region,” Edwards said. “I’ve always had a heart for our volunteer firefighters across the state, but especially in rural Ohio. I think 80 to 90 percent of my geographic district is covered by volunteer fire departments. And we’re seeing a rapid decline in the number of young people joining the volunteer fire service and retention…You have to have fire protection, and that actually plays a role not only in the economics of attracting a business, but in their insurance premiums and all of those things.”

Athens Fire Chief Robert Rymer said the facility will be located just outside Athens on a 14-acre site near Kenny Drive. The site could house a third fire station for the city, he said.

“I don’t know what the overall project will look like,” Rhymer said. “It will specialize in technical rescue because we run the regional team from our station.”

Rymer hopes the facility can include a burn facility with real weapons, as well as training equipment for trench rescues, rope rescues and more.

“We’re actually going to set up some scenarios and props there so that police can practice shootings and forced entry,” Rymer said. “EMS can use it to rescue people from their homes, get them up and down stairs and so on. It’s not just going to be a fire training facility, but anyone in the region will be able to use it.”

The training facility will be owned by the city of Athens, as the fire department is leading the project, but the facility will be used by organizations throughout southeast Ohio, Rhymer said.

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson noted that “many of our firefighters, your volunteers or your full-time firefighters, have to travel elsewhere to learn these skills.” The facility will also provide regular professional development opportunities for local and regional firefighters (and others), benefitting them as individuals and the public as emergency responders.

“It would be wonderful to be able to travel somewhere, complete the training and return home the same day, rather than having to travel further and possibly plan overnight stays,” Patterson said.

The $2.5 million in the budget will cover construction of the first building, which is estimated to cost about $1.8 million, Rymer said.

“We hope to have at least the incinerator set up by the end of next year,” Rhymer said.

Nelsonville Dog Park

The capital budget allocation “will have a major impact on the goal of building a dog park in Nelsonville,” said Dan Pfieffer, Nelsonville city spokesman, in an email. Only $3,763 in cash is currently on hand for the project.

“Initially, it was thought that we would have to take small steps in raising additional funds,” Pfeiffer said.

The dog park will be built on the site of the former Nelsonville Wastewater Treatment Plant at 1157 E. Canal St. The site has been remediated and is ready for construction of the dog park, Pfeiffer said.

“We have concept drawings and the city is waiting for the State of Ohio to release funds to the city,” Pfieffer explained. “Once the state funds are received, final design and planning can begin, followed by bidding for contractors and ultimately construction.”

Other Projects

The York Township Volunteer Fire Department said in a Facebook post that it received the funds following a visit from Sen. Brian Chavez (R-Marietta), who represents Athens County in Ohio’s 30th Senate District.

“Plans include expanding the station, upgrading the electrical system and creating a disaster area, including a generator for the entire building, which we do not currently have,” the York VFD said in a Facebook post. “More details to come as soon as we get all the details on this funding.”

Senator Chavez also visited ACEnet, which has offices in Athens and Nelsonville, said Leslie Schaller, ACEnet’s program director. Both locations “are in constant need of structural upgrades,” Schaller said. For example, the ACEnet building in Nelsonville, which covers nearly 100,000 square feet, needs a new roof, she said.

ACEnet, a small business incubator, has been supporting local and regional worker-owned businesses for 40 years. Although ACEnet primarily works with food and agriculture companies such as Casa Nueva, Shagbark Shagbark Seed and Mill, and Snowville Creamery, ACEnet’s clients also include a variety of health and wellness professionals, artisans, woodworkers, and more.

“Because we work with so many different distribution companies, both in manufacturing and food distribution in Nelsonville and Athens, a lot of the upgrades needed – to just handle all of the distribution – are important to us,” Schaller said.

ACEnet primarily serves low- and middle-income entrepreneurs who need access to affordable, high-quality space to build their startups, Schaller said.

“What the investment budget really enables us to do is – in one fell swoop – make many physical improvements to our buildings and the equipment at both locations,” said Schaller.

Chavez did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Edwards is serving his final year as a state representative due to term limits. Voters will choose his successor on November 5.

Associated Press reporter Dani Kington contributed to this story.

To update: This story has been updated to include a link to an announcement from Ohio University.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the name Shagbark Seed and Mill. We apologize for this error and any confusion it may have caused.