The Athens County Economic Development Council reported that it secured over $4 million in funding throughout 2020 meant to increase economic opportunity in Athens during the Monday City Council meeting.
Executive Director Mollie Fitzgerald reported that just under $2.9 million of this came from JobsOhio for the Port Authority building project at the Bill Theisen Industrial Park for site prep work. The total funding from 2020 goes directly to companies and businesses to facilitate job creation and improve infrastructure.
Fitzgerald also reported that the Athens County unemployment rate as of June 2020 was 9.8%, which is below both the national unemployment rate average as well as the Ohio average.
Council President Chris Knisley informed the council that several buildings of The Ridges have holes in the roofs. The cost of a temporary repair for these holes is over $600,000 for a tarp placed over the buildings. A long-term repair to these holes would cost about $4.3 million, Knisely said.
Knisley also said that Athens County would be willing to explore the possibility of bonds to invest in developing portions of the buildings for condominium development or senior housing.
City Planner Paul Logue discussed working with other leaders around the state to find funding for this project including Ohio History Connection, Heritage Ohio and Preservation Ohio.
“It’s clear from the university’s perspective I think that they’re telling us that they do not have the resources to provide for this,” Logue said.
Councilman Sam Crowl, D-3rd Ward, expressed that he is interested and willing to see what can be done to help preserve the Ridges.
“This is a remarkable piece of Athens, and the history is a part of who we are, and a part of the university, and a part of the city,” Crowl said.
Clarification: A previous version of this article misstated that the $4 million in funding the Athens County Economic Development Council received throughout 2020 was only from JobsOhio Sites Initiative Programs. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.