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.
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.
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.