Turner, state lawmakers upset state declined money for Wright-Patt

Published: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 7:22 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 7:22 PM

Area lawmakers are upset Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was shut out of a share of $5 million in state aid vowed changes Thursday to a state panel that decided to split the money for projects at two Ohio Air National Guard bases.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner and state Reps. Niraj Antani and Rick Perales spoke at a Thursday press conference about their frustrations with Wright-Patterson’s being shut out in a plea for funding for four infrastructure projects, covering everything from roof repairs to security gates.

Antani, R-Miami Twp., and Perales, R-Beavercreek, vowed to work to change how the money was awarded and review who sits on the nine-member Ohio Military Facilities Commission, five of whom were former high-ranking Ohio National Guard leaders.

Turner, R-Dayton, said he was “outraged” when he learned the commission bypassed Wright-Patterson for a share of millions of dollars to help pay for infrastructure projects.

“We know there are facilities that need funding all across the state but certainly with the largest single-site employer in the state right here in the Miami Valley we were very surprised and disappointed that not a dollar of the $5 million would come to Dayton, Ohio,” he said at a press conference in his downtown Dayton district office.

RELATED: Wright-Patt loses out on millions in state dollars

The congressman, a member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, said he had worked with Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, to push for the creation of a pot of state money to defray infrastructure costs at federal installations like Wright-Patterson in a bid to compete with other states doing the same thing and out to capture new missions and jobs.

Turner said he expects a base realignment and closure process, or BRAC, will begin next year and start to have an impact in 2020.

Wright-Patterson has a workforce of about 27,000, the most at one employer site in Ohio. The panel voted to send $2.5 million to help relocate a taxiway at Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base and $2.5 million to help build a combined deployment and processing and physical fitness center at Toledo Air National Guard Base.

“As the largest single-site employer, the entire region benefits from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and if this is only going to fund athletic facilities at National Gaurd bases which really don’t face a threat from the federal government to move jobs and missions around, we don’t want to support that funding,” Antani said.

For the panel to divide the “entire pot of funds for two facilities makes you question really what was doing on with the commission and the implications that were in front of them,” Turner said.

The evaluation process should include the workforce size at the facility and the spin-off technology created to “reflect the true value of the military installations” in Ohio, Perales said. He has a budget request for $5 million more to fund the program in the future.

RELATED: Wright-Patt to ask for state funds

The two state lawmakers also noted the majority, or five of the nine members of the commission, were former high-ranking Ohio National Guard leaders.

Antani said the Dayton region, which had one commission member, should have a higher share of the appointees with the state’s largest work site at Wright-Patterson.

“I think we need to retake a look at who’s getting appointed and if they have a conflict of interest in serving in the National Guard,” he said in part.

In an email Thursday, Commission Chairman Mark D. Wagoner Jr., a Toledo area lawyer and former state lawmaker, referred questions about who sits on the commission to the appointing authorities, which were the House, Senate and the governor’s office.

“I would also note that the vote of the Commission was unanimous, so the four members with no previous affiliation with the National Guard also voted to adopt the rankings of the neutral evaluator,” he wore in an email.

According to an OFMC document, chosen projects had applications with supporting documents that gave “much greater detail directly tying the infrastructure projects to military value” and the last base realignment and closure guidelines.

RELATED: Some U.S. military bases face closure threat to save money

Ten projects totaling $13.3 million in requests obtained a point score on how the improvement might increase the military value of the facility in a future round of base closures; local state or matching dollars offered; and a project cost estimate and deadline to completion.

Springboro leaders drove 2.5 hours to meet with Austin South developer

Published: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 @ 6:34 AM

Springboro City Council met in March with developer Larry Dillin during an overnight trip to Perrysburg as part of nearly a year of work on Dillin’s proposed development of Austin Landing South.

RELATED: Shopping centers planned on both sides of Austin Boulevard

Preparations for the meeting, which was publicized as a special session, and other communications between city officials and Dillin, were included in emails provided to this newspaper in response to public records requests.

MORE: 5 facts about latest Austin Landing restaurant 

The council drove north nearly 2.5 hours to Dillin’s Levis Commons development in Perrysburg, on the recommendation of Springboro City Manager Christine Thompson, Dillin said in an email provided by Springboro officials.

Thompson was familiar with Levis Commons from personal visits and urged the council to make the road trip after discussions with him, Dillin said.

“To cement her point, Chris has scheduled her entire City Council and Planning Director to travel to Levis on March 2 for an unguided tour of the property, dinner at Biaggi’s and an overnight stay at the Hilton Garden Inn,” Dillin said in the email to members of a Perrysburg board that provided oversight on Dillin’s project there.

The newspaper made the records request after Springboro declined to provide information about the development following passage of an agreement with the Warren County Port Authority to help put together public subsidies for the project.

RELATED: Roads, financing for Austin Landing spreading south into Springboro

The emails indicate investment specialists working with Dillin began communicating with Thompson and other city officials last year before the Fourth of July holiday.

RELATED: Private investment to drive Austin development in Springboro

The communications continued at least into May, when Dillin told Thompson and Assistant City Manager Chris Pozzuto about a party featuring skydivers “on the current vacant field that will soon become Austin Landing South (or other more catchy name…) “

Follow Lawrence Budd on Twitter

On Monday, Thompson said she felt the trip to Perrysburg was necessary to help the council decide whether to work with Dillin on the development of land connected to one of the city’s industrial parks and comprising one of its last large of undeveloped tracts.

The land also was the source of litigation with the previous owner, settled with a consent decree limiting what could be built and preventing construction of a Walmart there.

RELATED: Court order dictates Austin Landing South development

“It’s got a high level of importance for Springboro,” Thompson said. “Imagine if we’d put a Walmart there.”

She said the city would provide more details on the development once a formal proposal was made by Dillin.

Dillin did not respond to a request for a response.

Local politicians oppose Senate health care proposal

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 11:27 AM

KARA DRISCOLL/STAFF

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley spoke out on Tuesday about their opposition to the proposed U.S. Senate health care bill, claiming it will have a “damaging impact” on the Miami Valley.

Whaley and Foley, both Democrats, joined Dayton Indivisible for All on Tuesday morning for a press conference, and said the cuts to Medicaid contained in the current version of the proposed health care bill would be “disastrous to local and statewide efforts to fight the opiod epidemic.”

The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 could result in loss of coverage for close to 539,700 Ohioans, including 360,000 Ohio residents currently on Medicaid, Whaley and Foley claimed. The local leaders urged Sen. Rob Portman to vote no on the bill.

» RELATED: Gov. Kasich slams House GOP over health-care bill

“We know that this health care bill raises premiums and health care costs while cutting basic benefits and reducing access to coverage,” said Melissa Rodriguez, a main organizer for DIFA. “We are grateful that our local leaders are voicing their opposition to this bill. Now we need Sen. Portman to join them and vote no when this health care bill comes to a vote.”

In a conference call with reporters last week, Portman, R-Ohio, objected to plans by Senate Republican leaders to gain approval for a health-care bill before the July 4 holidays, saying instead “we need to get it right.”

Portman has backed an overhaul of the 2010 health law known as Obamacare, but said he fears “if we try to squeeze it in a short period of time we won’t get it right and we have to get it right.”

» RELATED: Senate leaders scramble to save health bill amid defections

A Congressional Budget office analysis shows the Senate bill would cut federal deficits by $202 billion more over the coming decade than the version the House approved in May. Senate leaders could use some of those additional savings to attract moderate votes by making Medicaid and other provisions more generous, though conservatives would rather use that money to reduce red ink.

The Senate plan would end the tax penalty that law imposes on people who don’t buy insurance, in effect erasing Obama’s so-called individual mandate, and on larger businesses that don’t offer coverage to workers.

It would let states to ease Obama’s requirements that insurers cover certain specified services like substance abuse treatments, and eliminate $700 billion worth of taxes over a decade, the CBO said, largely on wealthier people and medical companies that Obama’s law used to expand coverage.

» Anthem pulls out of Ohio: What’s really going on?

It would cut Medicaid, which provides health insurance to over 70 million poor and disabled people, by $772 billion through 2026 by capping its overall spending and phasing out Obama’s expansion of the program. Of the 22 million people losing health coverage, 15 million would be Medicaid recipients.

“Right now, we have a huge challenge in front of us,” Whaley said. “We need to call this bill like it is. We’re telling people if you’re sick, suffering and dying, go fend for yourself because we’re eliminating your access to health care — all in the middle of a heroin epidemic, in the middle of this state of emergency. In a time where the morgues are filled … we’re talking about denying people the help they so desperately need.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Businesses may face penalties for prohibiting guns in private vehicles

Published: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 6:32 PM
Updated: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 6:32 PM

Businesses may face penalties for prohibiting guns in private vehicles (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Business groups are fighting an Ohio Senate proposal that will open them up to civil lawsuits by employees and others who bring handguns on to company property.

“For us this isn’t a concealed carry issue as much as this is an employer rights issue,” said Chris Kershner, vice president, public policy & economic development for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Employers should be able to manage the actions in their private business on their private property, period.”

Ohio’s newly expanded concealed carry law - passed in December as Senate Bill 199 - lets people with concealed carry permits bring their guns onto private property regardless of the policies and wishes of the company or property owner.

RELATED: Guns at work: New law allows handguns on private property 

The gun must remain stored in the permit holder’s private vehicle.

But the law did not include any penalties for companies that do not comply and gun rights advocates have called for teeth to be added to it.

RELATED: Guns at work: New law allows handguns on private property

A provision in the Ohio Senate’s version of the proposed state budget would do that by creating a civil liability for employers and property owners if they try to prevent concealed-carry permit holders from bringing their guns onto private property.

John Fortney, spokesman for Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said the new provision is needed to concealed-carry permit holders who are following the rules don’t face unfair discipline at work.

“It doesn’t make sense for someone to lose their job for being responsible and following the law,” Fortney said.

The provision has prompted the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and 17 other business groups to send a letter strongly opposing the new provision to Obhof and Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville.

The letter is signed by groups representing retailers, manufacturers, contractors, auto dealers, financial service and insurance companies, attorneys, and other businesses 

“We were opposed to Senate Bill 199 last year,” said Don Boyd, director of labor and legal affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. “We believed it infringes on employers’ private property rights and everyone’s private property rights. It also applies to every property owner and business owner in the state.”

RELATED: do concealed-carry laws make us safer?

Boyd said the business groups hope the provision will be removed in the final version of the state’s two-year budget that is being discussed now in a 6-member conference committee made up of members of the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives. The House version of the state budget does not include the provision.

“Looking at this new amendment we think it just exacerbates the problems of 199 by creating a new way to file a lawsuit against employers and private property owners,” Boyd said. “It’s a step backward for Ohio’s legal climate.”

The Senate provision would allow the business or property owner to be sued in civil court and the plaintiff awarded compensatory damages, injunctive relief, costs and attorney’s fees.

A lawsuit could be filed against a property owner, or employer “who establishes, maintains, or enforces a policy that prohibits a valid concealed handgun licensee from transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition in the person’s privately owned motor vehicle in accordance with existing law conditions,” according to a summary of the budget provision by the state’s non-partisan Legislative Service Commission.

RELATED: 5 things to know about Ohio’s CCW law

“Penalties are needed because some businesses have refused to comply with the spirit of the law,” said Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association.

He said some employers are “harassing” employees who bring guns to work in their cars by asking them to come forward and show proof of a concealed carry permit and gun safety training.

RELATED: Hundreds killed by guns in workplace

The State Legislature in December approved the concealed carry expansion in a flurry of late night lame duck voting.

RELATED: Gun restrictions ease in Ohio

The law overrides company policies regarding weapons on company property but does not require a business to let people bring guns inside the business.

It was opposed by gun safety advocates and business groups but supported by gun rights advocates who said it allows people to have their weapons with them if they need to defend themselves on the way to and from work.

The concealed carry law originally would have established concealed carry holders as a protected class under civil rights laws but that was removed after businesses objected.

RELATED: Business groups lament Ohio expanded gun laws

The law does not apply to federal facilities like post offices or Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

RELATED: Wright-Patt employees can’t bring handguns to work

The law does let colleges, universities, and local government officials allow concealed carry permit holders to bring guns onto their property. Kershner said private businesses should have given private property owners and businesses the same right to choose to keep guns out.

“This is about employers being able to operate with less government interference,” Kershner said.

RELATED: Residents respond to new law allowing guns on private property

RELATED: 5 things to know about Ohio’s CCW law

RELATED: 9 Workplace Shooting incidents in Ohio and the U.S.

RELATED: Tips to avoid gun violence at work

Warren County arts community vote settles zoning case

Published: Saturday, June 24, 2017 @ 8:00 AM


            Ramesh Malhotra in 2011 in Mason, where his property management business is located. He wants to develop an arts community near Lebanon. FILE
            Samantha Grier

When Warren County commissioners approved rezoning 20 acres for a proposed arts community, they also ended a zoning violation case.

On Tuesday, commissioners approved rezoning of Theatre 42 property at 2752 U.S. 42 in Union Twp. for a planned development by Ramesh Malhotra, an entrepreneur also involved in redevelopment of two sites in Franklin as centers for spirituality and the arts.

“I’m neither an artist or a singer or an actor. I try to help the artist,” Malhotra said in a telephone interview after the rezoning.

Malhotra described himself as a “spiritual capitalist.”

MORE: Malhotra redeveloping Catholic church in Franklin

The arts community plan was developed after the property was cited for a code violation after property was changed from the Living Tree Community Church to a theater used by the Mason Community Players, Zoning Inspector Mike Yetter said Tuesday.

Churches are permitted in residentially zoned areas, but not community theaters.

Malhotra is planning to open Ever One Performing Art Theaters in a developing corridor on U.S. 42 between Mason and Lebanon.

He already has the Malhotra Collection of Spiritual Art on display at a museum developed in an old home along the Great Miami River and multi-use trail at 318 River St. in Franklin. Malhotra said he has begun opening the museum on Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as on weekends, for visitors from around the world and as interest grows.

MORE: Malhotra redeveloping Catholic church in Franklin

Before working on the theater plan, Malhotra said he plans to convert the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Franklin to the Oneness Harmony Center. Malhotra plans to seek donations and fees for musical and spoken-word presentations “to raise the individual spirit through meditation.”

The Harmony Center is expected to open in August in time to capitalize on visitors in Franklin for Downtown Saturday Nite, a local auto show held for more than 30 years. Malhotra looks for some of the show’s audience to also stop by the art museum.

In September or October, work is to begin on remodeling of the old Theatre 42 building, where the Mason Community Players (MCP) have been staging shows since 2015, before Malhotra took over a land contract for the property from Mason Mayor Victor Kidd.

MORE: Spiritual art museum opens in Franklin

“We are a part of the plan with the owner of the property,” Laureen Catlin, an MCP board member, said via email.

Their production of The Wiz is to open on July 14, and the group is soliciting donations to help make rent and subsidize improvements to the building.

“When you lease a space, there are rent and utilities to be paid,” the group said on its website. “And MCP tries to improve Theatre 42 as much as possible in order to make it more and more comfortable and accommodating to its performers, technicians and staff, and most importantly, for its audiences.”

Malhotra also plans to build a second building in anticipation of another group, such as a children’s theater group, moving to the center.

MORE: Mayor says new company fits city’s “strong culture of wellness and entrepreneurship”

Ultimately, plans show as many as six buildings, including a 27,900 square foot theater, on the property, which lacks sewers and much of which is in a flood plain.

“We appreciate your vision,” Commissioner Dave Young said before the unanimous vote to rezone the property from residential use to allow the planned-unit development in a neighborhood commercial business zone.

The land is owned Evan Ford but is under a land contract previously held by Kidd and the church and taken on by Malhotra, property records show.

At the meeting, Malhotra, based in Mason, said he would lease the buildings to groups and planned to open a music school in the existing building. He said the zoning violation complaint was made after the property passed from Kidd to him in 2016, although the theater had been operating in the former church building since 2015.

Commissioner Tom Grossmann quizzed Malhotra about the property’s ownership.

Grossmann lives in Mason and served on the city council and as mayor before his election as a county commissioner.

“I think it’s a great use,” he said. “I sure hope it works.”

FOLLOW LAWRENCE BUDD ON TWITTER

Malhotra, a coal broker and head of the Malhotra Group, based in Mason, said the projects fit his model for developing charitable businesses.

“I was given a gift to build businesses,” he said. “I have made enough money. I don’t really need more.”

Kidd said he sold the contract to Malhotra when his church mission changed and they no longer needed the property.

The development plan for the arts community still has to be reviewed by the commissioners.

“You’ll get to see it again,” Yetter said. “Ultimately, the commissioners will have the final say.”

CONTINUING COVERAGE

We are committed to coverage of issues of importance to Warren County, including recent stories about residents who fought a septic business and potential medical marijuana cultivation sites.