Comprehensive plan funded by commission

Seneca County commissioners agreed to contribute to a joint countywide comprehensive planning effort Tuesday morning.

Seneca Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Charlene Watkins, who has spearheaded the effort, said regional planning is to cover about $60,429 of the $120,000 plan. The city of Tiffin is to add $34,200, with Fostoria Economic Development Corp. contributing $10,000 and the Seneca County Park District pitching in up to $19,000. A $15,000 gap was left after those contributions and commissioners voted unanimously to pay it.

The plan is to include strategies for housing, commercial and industrial development, education, trans-

portation, parks and recreation, and arts and culture.

Watkins said the funding difference between the cities is because Tiffin asked for more variables in the plan, while Fostoria asked for one.

Commissioner Shayne Thomas said he was pleased with Watkins’ work to get support from all entities.

“This looks like a real collaborative effort,” he said.

Watkins said she hopes to complete the contract with CT Consultants this week and believes work could begin in April. The plan will take about 18 months to complete.

During a work session before Tuesday’s meeting, several residents raised concerns with the contractor of the Wolf Creek Ditch Project.

In June, County Engineer Mark Zimmerman gave an update on the project, which is to remove obstructions from the main ditch of Wolf Creek from the Seneca-Hancock line near Alvada to the Seneca-Sandusky line near Bettsville. The project started because of a 2012 petition.

Paul Eickhoff, who lives near the stream, said he was disappointed no representatives from Feller Finch, the project’s contractor, were at the Tuesday meeting. He said he was concerned materials brought out of the channel were too close to the stream and they could re-enter it. Eickhoff said he believed the contractor was not following design plans, which state debris removed from the stream should be placed outside of the tree line, further away from the channel.

Zimmerman agreed with Eickhoff’s concerns and said the company would not be paid unless contract stipulations are met.

He said some debris already has re-entered the stream because of where it was being stacked.

“The big issue, we want it secured, we don’t want it back in the channel,” he said. “It’s the whole purpose of the project. I’d like them to start at the beginning again and re-secure debris.”

Zimmerman said he planned to visit the site this week and reiterate concerns. He said they paid the company for the first month of work, but would hold the next payment until the job is being completed according to contract. The company began the latest phase of the project earlier this year.

In January 2017, commissioners approved a $36,800 contract with Feller Finch for the project’s design.

Zimmerman said costs were to be paid by the county and paid back by landowners via assessments.

He said in June that there were about 392 log jams to be removed and the cost estimate then from Feller Finch was about $315,000 for removal of debris and trees and other related work.

Zimmerman said 47 landowners are immediately affected and will have workers on their land along 11 miles of the ditch in Liberty, Jackson, Hopewell and Loudon townships. Zimmerman said 7,000 parcels are affected.

In other business, Commissioner Holly Stacy said the lighting ceremony and open house last week at Seneca County Justice Center were successful.

“We had a tremendous turnout,” she said.

Thomas said several people asked him what the maintenance plan for the justice center was now that construction is complete.

“It’s been a while since we talked about it, but we have a joint use management and lease agreement with the city of Tiffin on how we will fund future improvements and maintenance of the building,” he said.

The agreement states the county will allocate $30,000 and the city will allocate $10,000 annually for maintenance and capital improvements.

“People want to trust us with this building, so we need to tell them how we plan to take care of it,” Thomas said.

Commissioners also agreed to take some leftover money appropriated for Courthouse Annex renovations and use it to purchase a $32,775 briefcase scanner at the recommendation of the justice center security committee.

In other news, commissioners heard from Ohio Environmental Protection Agency representatives.

Thomas told the EPA staff he was upset Seneca County was not considered for grants available from a settlement the organization had with Volkswagen after the company was accused of altering emissions reports.

As part of the settlement, the state is to receive $75 million that must be used for pollution reduction, but the OEPA excluded rural counties such as Seneca, Thomas said.

“I have a high degree of displeasure with (the decision),” Thomas said. “I just don’t think it’s fair.”

Thomas suggested the OEPA use 10 percent of the settlement on competitive funding for rural counties.

Joy Padgett, of OEPA, said she would deliver the message to organization leaders.

“I understand your message, quite well actually. I’ll make sure it gets to the right people, including the director,” she said.

In new business, commissioners approved:

• A $40,000 supplemental appropriation to the General Fund.

• A $57,571 supplemental appropriation to the Community Based Correctional Facility Fund.

• A $14,325.46 supplemental appropriation to the General Fund.

• A recommendation from the Tax Incentive Review Council on an Enterprise Zone and Community Reinvestment Area tax abatements for companies in Seneca County in 2017.

• Appointing Stacy to represent commissioners on the District Public Works Integrating Committee for Ohio Public Works Commissioner District 16.

• A contract between Seneca County Common Pleas Court, the juvenile courts clerk and magistrate, the county clerk of courts and the county on behalf of Seneca County Department of Job and Family Services.