State briefs

New year sees gas prices lower

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio gas prices begin the new year lower than they were a week ago, though the national average went the opposite direction.

A gallon of regular gas in Ohio averaged $2.32 in Tuesday’s survey from auto club AAA, the Oil Price Information Service and WEX Inc. That’s down 6 cents from a week ago.

Ohio’s average was a few pennies below the national average of $2.35 on Tuesday. That’s up 6 cents from a week ago.

Those prices are notably higher than at this time last year, when Ohio drivers were paying about $1.90 per gallon and the national average was $1.99.

AAA says gas prices have been rising in recent weeks largely in reaction to an OPEC agreement to cut production beginning in January.

Universities seek state money, tuition hikes

COLUMBUS — Ohio’s higher education leaders want the state to give its public universities more money in the next budget.

The Inter-University Council of Ohio seeks a 4.5 percent increase in the basic state subsidy for each of the next two years, The Blade newspaper reported recently.

The group, which represents the state’s public universities, has also asked for a 10 percent total bump in funding for needy Ohio students and wants universities to have the option to raise tuition this school year.

The state expects to provide nearly $2 billion in instructional subsidies this year. The subsidy grew by 4 percent this year and 4.7 percent the year before.

“We are back to our funding level before the Great Recession, which means that over the last eight years we haven’t made any progress, but we’ve recovered what we’ve lost,” council president Bruce Johnson told The Blade.

The group’s proposed 4.5 percent subsidy increase would cost an additional $89 million next fiscal year.

State officials say they’re expecting the upcoming budget will be “tight.”

“We have made significant investments for our colleges and universities in past years, but this upcoming budget will be tight, and anyone looking for a major program expansion is likely to be disappointed,” said Emmalee Kalmbach, spokeswoman for Gov. John Kasich.

Ohio ranked 40th in the country for educational appropriations per full-time equivalent student in fiscal year 2015, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

The University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University both said they would talk about hiking tuition next school year if allowed to do so.

Mad River Mountain resumes operations

ZANESFIELD — The snow machines billowed clouds of snow as the sun cut through the wintry haze to illuminate Mad River Mountain’s new lodge. The beams of light also brought the promise of better luck this ski season.

Inside, carpenters, electricians and designers scrambled to complete work on the $7.5 million lodge in the run-up to its official opening late last month. A ribbon-cutting was held for the new Lodge & Loft on Friday, Dec. 30.

A fire on Sept. 16, 2015, destroyed Mad River Mountain’s 53-year-old lodge, food-service area and loft.

The fire, whose cause was never determined, was followed by an unusually warm season, stalling business and worrying the Logan County community of Zanesfield, which relies on tourism revenue from the 150,000 seasonal guests and about 500 employees.

The fire “was very upsetting,” said Michael Mihnovets, the lodge’s marketing manager. “It took off fast and was a total loss.”

The temporary lodge built after the fire is being replaced by a 45,000-square-foot permanent structure that is double the size of the original. Insurance money and additional funding from owner Peak Resorts allowed for the larger space.

The main-floor restaurant can seat 800 people, plus 300 in the loft above. That space will have a large bar and feature live music. Workers were installing one of the few salvaged pieces from the fire: stained-glass windows that were carefully removed and restored.

Architectural nods to the old lodge create a “rustic, industrial look,” said Kevin Gosche, general manager for Thomas & Marker Construction. A-frame vaulted ceilings with 84-foot-long continuous trusses are among the largest in the Midwest, he said. And sediment from Mad River was milled into the bar countertop.

Behind the lodge, snow continued to spray from pole-mounted machines, creating a base layer of about 2 feet for the expected weekend crowds.

The 1,460-foot mountain, part of the Bellefontaine ridge and formed by glaciation, is the one constant. The 20 ski trails spread over 144 acres are unchanged.