Boccieri Blasts Capital Bill for Lack of YARS Funds

COLUMBUS – State Rep. John Boccieri yesterday sharply criticized priorities in the recently announced state capital budget, highlighting projects that received funding instead of Youngstown Air Reserve Station’s request for funds to establish regional joint readiness center.

Local proponents had sought $1.2 million in the state capital budget for the YARS project, which would have used the air cargo building at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

The main use of the building would be as an embarkation/debarkation terminal for military personnel and equipment, although the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross have expressed interest in storing equipment and supplies there, Dan Dickten, director of aviation at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, said last year.

“I’m really surprised that the initial introduction of the capital bill placed ‘pork’ ahead of Ohio’s patriots,” Boccieri, D-59 Poland, said. “The irony is almost pathetic – legislators want to construct a 50-foot statue of the Wright brothers’ first airplane ahead of prioritizing a project that will have an immediate impact on deploying soldiers who fly out of the Air Reserve Station.”

Other funding priorities in the capital bill Boccieri highlighted included giving $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.

“We certainly should prioritize our soldiers ahead of a puppet theater and statue of the Wright brothers’ first airplane,” 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.”

Air Force Col. James Dignan, commander of the 910th Airlift Wing stationed at YARS, is scheduled to meet today with Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Amstutz to discuss alternative funding sources for the base. He will be joined by representatives of the Western Reserve Port Authority and Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber

“We’re just looking for options for the long-term viability of the air base,” Dignan said.

If money isn’t available through the capital budget, perhaps assistance could be secured through the Ohio Military Facilities Commission, he speculated. “With the port authority we’ve got a good opportunity to come up with a manner [to bring the project about] but we’re probably going to have to get a little creative in order to make it happen,” he remarked.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.