Jackson County scored some cash this legislative session with $18 million slated for community projects, including money for Rogue Community College, Southern Oregon University, the Holly Theatre and children.
The Oregon Legislature approved a general bonding bill of $1.4 billion, which goes to Gov. Kate Brown's office for her signature, and the funds will be disbursed sometime next year.
The Family Nurturing Center will get $2,050,587 for a children's nursery, and the Holly Theatre renovation will approach its fundraising goal with a $1 million grant. Another $1,895,000 would go to the Rogue River Valley Irrigation District to run ditch water underground through a pressurized pipe.
"These are all wonderful projects," state Sen. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, said Friday as the Legislature was wrapping up its session.
"It's money well spent for our community," said Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford.
The bonding bill would pay for the irrigation ditch project, and RCC and SOU will each receive $6,125,000 million.
Other projects are being funded out of the general fund, Marsh said. In addition to the Holly Theatre and Nurturing Center allotments, Harry and David Field will get $750,000, and the Vietnam Wall replica project in Medford will receive $250,000.
Grant Walker, spokesman for RCC, said the money for the school would pay for renovation and expansion of the Elk Building Science Facility at the Josephine County campus.
"That's a real plus, because we want to get that upgraded to the highest possible standards for science instruction," he said.
Receiving the money from the state will free up more dollars for other projects at the three campuses in Jackson and Josephine counties. Walker said it hasn't been determined yet where the improvements will be made at the other campuses.
The SOU money will be used to renovate Central Hall.
Larry Martin, a board member for the Rogue River Valley Irrigation District, said the underground pressurized pipe is part of the WISE project (Water for Irrigation, Streams and Economy). The initiative seeks to improve watersheds in the Bear Creek and the Little Butte Creek watersheds.
The irrigation district funding, which will be leveraged with another $3.7 million in federal grants, will help demonstrate the effectiveness of using gravity to pressurize about three miles of pipe for customers, who would convert from flood irrigation to sprinklers. The project will be located in the Little Butte Creek watershed.
Local residents applauded the range of projects being funded by the Legislature.
"That's a lot of money coming in to our community," said Randy McKay, executive director of Jefferson Live!, which operates the Holly Theatre. "We could use it."
McKay said the extra $1 million will bring the Holly fundraising effort to $4.7 million.
The renovation of the 1930 theater in downtown Medford was originally projected to cost $4.3 million, but that amount was calculated during the recession.
McKay said he should know in about a month what the actual costs will be, though he thought it would be in the $5 million range.
He said the project scope has increased, with excavation needed under the stage for a dressing room and storage area. Also, McKay is working on parking lots for the Holly.
With the extra $1 million, McKay said he's confident the project will start soon, once bids come in over the next month.
"We know we've got the money we need to start the project," he said.
— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.