Panel agrees to contract legal counsel

Seneca County commissioners agreed to bring in special counsel for consultation on issues concerning proposed wind projects during their meeting Tuesday morning.

Commissioner Shayne Thomas said the board checked through the County Commissioner Association of Ohio and found no recommendations for counsel. Thomas said they are planning to contract with Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, LLP, which has an average rate of $480 per hour.

Thomas said Seneca County Prosecutor Derek DeVine had recused himself from the wind issue.

Commissioners approved the motion 2-1 with Commissioner Mike Kerschner voting against going with the group without bidding out contract to find counsel at a lower rate or to find counsel that would have a cap on its rates.

“I cannot support this,” Kerschner said. “I don’t feel it would be fiscally responsible.”

Commissioners are bringing in special counsel to seek guidance through the Ohio Power Siting Board process on how to proceed with the development of wind projects in the county.

During public comment, resident Jim Feasel addressed the commissioners indicating he had new information about the wind projects. After a discussion with County Engineer Mark Zimmerman, Feasel said the county could have used a road use agreement, rather than the PILOT program, to help with road preservation as the agreement would have prevented companies from having to use heavy use permits each time equipment would need moved. In addition, Feasel spoke with representatives from SPower during open house events last week in Attica and reported the company would be willing to proceed with the project and be taxed based on current real estate taxes rather than capped PILOT program payments.

In another matter, WSOS personnel presented an update on the Community Housing Impact and Preservation program.

WSOS President and CEO Ruthann House said there has been more than $1.2 million brought into the county in 2017-18 because of the program.

The program is through collaboration between Seneca County and the cities of Tiffin and Fostoria.

Tiffaney Shaver, planning and development coordinator for WSOS, said Fostoria is the lead in the grant process.

The new grant application has been submitted and WSOS is waiting to hear back for approval, Shaver said.

Funding from the grant is to go toward helping low income individuals make home repairs, rental repairs and rehabilitation of private homes. If the money allocated is not spent in the timeline of the grant, Shaver said they funds will then go back to state funding.

Shaver said the presentation is to help WSOS raise awareness for the program.

Also, commissioners are to give the public 60-days notice before enforcing a new parking policy in county lots.

Within the lots of the commissioners’ office lot, the Hanson lot and RTA lot, there will be green spaces used for county employees 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Yellow areas are for general public parking and are limited to two-hours.

Signs indicating this information have been set up in the lots that are to be affected.

Thomas also gave an update on the county’s investment portfolio. Within the summary, there is more than $25 million indicated in all funds with $4.1 million for the county engineer funds.

Commissioners also agreed to cancel the meeting at 10 a.m. Sept. 18, to be rescheduled to 10 a.m. Sept. 20.

In other business, the commissioners approved:

• A $10,000 supplemental appropriation to the METRICH Fund.

• A $15,293.05 appropriation adjustment within the Ditch Maintenance Fund on behalf of Seneca Conservation District.

• A $121,545 contract with JB Roofing for replacing two sections of the Seneca County Jail roof.

• A $317,365.90 contract with M.P. Dory Co. For a guardrail installation project.

• A $1,038,553.68 contract with M&B Asphalt for pavement work on CR 19, CR 39 and CR 32.

• A $168,496 purchase of two International 7400 dump trucks for the engineer’s office.

• Applying for $466,000 in funding through an Ohio Public Works Commission program.

• A $20,000 supplemental appropriation to the DRETAC Fund to cover land bank fees.

• A $3,752.60 supplemental appropriation to the Dog and Kennel Fund to cover employee insurance that was not initially budgeted.

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