The state could soon be pumping tens of millions of dollars into the Akron area for everything from tearing down the Rubber Bowl and renovating Blossom Music Center to upgrading local universities and boosting mental health and addiction services.

Ohio lawmakers introduced a plan this week to distribute $2.6 billion in state funding for various construction projects in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.

The massive two-year capital spending plan, which is being considered simultaneously in both statehouse chambers to speed up the legislative process, is contained in House Bill 529 and Senate Bill 266. Along with $2.6 billion in new spending, which would be raised through the sale of state bonds, the plan includes about $1.2 billion in state funds approved in previous years but not yet disbursed.

The money should be available to local universities, school districts, governments and other publicly funded agencies beginning July 1, or the start of the 2019 fiscal year.

This initial spending plan, which is the result of public agencies asking lawmakers for help to build or upgrade facilities and maintain public assets, details $30.9 million for Summit County projects, nearly two-thirds of which, or $20.1 million, will be flowing to or through the University of Akron. Another $3.4 million is set aside for Stark State College of Technology, mostly for the Akron Center for Education and Workforce. The rest is spread across 14 unique projects.

City and county officials, including the Summit County Land Bank, teamed up on three successful funding requests: $100,000 toward a $400,000 demolition of the now city-owned Rubber Bowl, a $350,000 commercial drivers license (CDL) regional training program run by Stark State on county property and $675,000 to revive work that began in 2000 and stalled more than a decade ago at the Akron Civic Theatre.

“There is literally a demarcation line on the wall where they started the restoration project then stopped,” Jason Dodson, chief of staff to Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro, said of Civic project. With a $530,000 state grant secured a couple years ago, the $675,000 would cover phase two of the project, including lobby renovations extending out to the Main Street entrance.

Half of request

The $100,000 included in the budget proposal for the Rubber Bowl project is half of what the city was seeking.

Other notable projects include a $1.3 million renovation of Blossom Music Center, which turns 50 this year, $400,000 to fix up the Civil-War era John Brown House and $550,000 to improve the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens campus.

For law enforcement, $2.6 million is proposed for heating, ventilation and cooling work at the Ohio Attorney General’s regional office in Richfield, where peace officers are trained and the state performs forensic analysis of crime scene evidence, including rape kits. The Barberton Municipal Jail would get $500,000 as part of a plan to construct a new justice center on property recently purchased by the city.

Summit and Stark counties also would share a $15 million grant with four other counties that encompass Athens, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo. The dollars would be distributed by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Local county officials who spearhead mental health and drug addiction have not been notified about the proposed projects.

“Typically, those capital projects are shovel ready,” said Jerry Craig, executive director of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Summit County. “I think what that’s referring to are appropriations for the development of crisis stabilization for mental health and withdrawal management beds that were assigned by hospitals in various regions of the state.”

Craig said efforts have been underway since July to expand or build spaces for additional treatment, possibly by renovating existing space at partnering hospitals and treatment centers slammed with opioid-related cases.

Funds for Kent State

Elsewhere in the region, Kent State is on track to receive $20.9 million, with $15 million supporting the new Design Innovation Center. Also in Portage County, the Northeast Ohio Medical University would get $1.8 million. Another $400,000 would support a Portage County detoxification and treatment center.

Stark County is slated to get $10.4 million. The amount includes $1 million to support the Pro Football Hall of Fame Center of Excellence, which is part of a $500 million village project.

Remaining projects in Summit County include:

• $500,000 for the Pride of Africa and Wild Asia exhibit at the Akron Zoo.

• $250,000 to improve Hale Farm and Village.

• $200,000 to renovate the Peninsula Grand Army of the Republic Hall.

• $75,000 to improve United Disability Services.

• $50,000 for the Hinton/Humiston Fitness Park.

• $50,00 to restore Case-Barlow Farm.

Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @ABJDoug on Twitter or www.facebook.com/doug.livingston.92 on Facebook.