COLUMBUS – The substitute version of the State of Ohio’s biennial operating budget approved Tuesday by the House Finance Committee includes two new appropriations for the Buckeye Lake area.
One amendment provides a $10 million capital appropriation to begin work on the rehabilitation of the Buckeye Lake dam and requires all contracts to include incentives for early completion.
When Governor John Kasich announced March 19 that the dam would be replaced, he said it would be funded via “multiple capital bills”over several years. He rejected using the state’s “rainy day” fund for the project. Earlier funding is believed to be able to reduce the expected fiveyear project time-line.
State Representative Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) and others backed the amendment. “Most people agree that repairs need to be done to the dam. Now that the decision has been made, we need to get this project moving as soon as possible in order to reduce the timeframe needed for repairs,” Schaffer said. “We cannot afford to waste time because the business owners and residents of Buckeye Lake cannot afford to wait longer than needed.”
The second amendment, authored by Schaffer, appropriates $1 million over two years to create a tourism campaign to attract business and visitors to Buckeye Lake during the rehab process.
“Tourism is the biggest source of economic activity in the Buckeye Lake region,” Schaffer pointed out. “Although activity will most likely be reduced bit during the repair process, we need to make it clear that Buckeye Lake is open for business and still has much to offer.”
Schaffer also spoke about the amendments Wednesday night at the Buckeye Lake Area Civic Association’s Spring dinner. He talked about being in party caucus meetings where some legislators complain that their projects aren’t funded for years on end.
“You got $10 million the first time up to speed up the dam,” Schaffer explained. Getting the amendments in the substitute bill was the biggest hurdle, he said.
His amendment for Tourism Ohio provides $500,000 a year over the next two-year budget beginning July 1. It is important that tourists know that Buckeye Lake is open for business, Schaffer explained.
“I want to make sure we are getting out a positive message,” he added. “We’re not done yet,” Schaffer pledge Wednesday night. “We’ll protect you and get this dam fixed quickly.”
Buckeye Lake Marina owner and Fairfield County Commissioner Dave Levacy praised legislators for approving the two amendments. He said the support of House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and House Finance Committee Chair Ryan Smith was critical as was Rep. Bill Hayes’ and Schaffer’s support.
The State Senate begins consideration of the biennial budget next week. Levacy said State Sen. Troy Balderson is working hard to keep both amendments in the Senate version. Levacy also thanked Congressman Steve Stivers for his continuing consultation at the federal level and work with the state legislature.