ommissioners excited about year ahead

ommissioners excited about year ahead

Image Credit: Dave Mast

The Holmes County commissioners went through their annual reorganizational process on Monday, Jan. 10, a process that comes in the beginning of each new year. The biggest change was Joe Miller taking over the commissioner chairmanship title as Rob Ault stepped down, with Ray Eyler taking on the vice-chair role.

“It’s been nice working with you as chair,” Ault said to the two commissioners. “It’s been good.”

“I promise you I’ll do my best,” Miller said of taking on the chairmanship role.

The commissioners then quickly agreed to keep the weekly meeting time on Mondays at 10 a.m., with the first and third Thursdays reserved for open meetings. Deadlines for the public to turn in business documents for weekly business meetings remained the Thursday before at 9 a.m.

The county will continue its uniform pay schedule at 26 pay days per year, and the commissioners agreed to accept the increase of mileage rate to $0.58 per mile, which is in line with the federal government request.

The holiday schedule for county government employees was released and includes 11 dates: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

In wrapping up the meeting, the commissioners approved the volunteered appointments slate for each commissioner for 2022.

Ault’s volunteer duties will include Kno-Ho-Co, Holmes County LEPC, Homeland Security Task Force, Committee for Juvenile Detention, and Family and Children First.

Eyler will continue to serve with OMEGA, the Community Care Board, EODA, Issue 1 Board (along with Holmes County engineer Chris Young) and Homes County Highway Safety Task Force.

Miller will serve as the OMEGA alternate, Community Corrections Board, Holmes County Rails-to-Trails Board, EMS Advisory Board, OSU Extension Advisory Board, Solid Waste Advisory Board and the 9-1-1 Board.

The commissioners wrapped up their meeting by approving a resolution for the Jobs and Commerce Economic Development Agreement between the State of Ohio, Ohio Department of Transportation and the commissioners. The agreement finalizes grant funding of $581,000 to create a turning lane on state Route 39 at ProVia, where increased traffic due to the large expansion project there made it necessary to build a left turning lane into the facility.

“They had planned to do this expansion for a while, and we first started talking about it around a year ago,” said Mark Leininger, Holmes County director of economic development. “At the time they didn’t realize that a turning lane would be required with the expansion because of the rate of traffic flow there.”

As part of the ongoing expansion project, ProVia had to expand and reconfigure its parking lot area, which entailed moving their entrance drive. To do so, ProVia had to get a permit from ODOT, which led to a traffic study.

That study then fleshed out the need for the turn lane, an issue that hadn’t arisen until ProVia was well into the expansion project.

Leininger said he then began working with the company in March 2021 to discover grant-funding options through Jobs Ohio, ODOT and other avenues.

“The volume of traffic on state Route 39 combined with the amount of traffic in and out of the facility with all of the additional jobs and production made it necessary,” Leininger said.

As for looking ahead into the new year, the commissioners said the hope is the county can continue its upward swing economically. They noted that while there is still a great need to fill job openings throughout the county, as is the case around the nation, the sales tax created from the tourism industry and sales across the board from manufacturing companies remains strong.

“Our hope is that we continue to prosper just like we have been doing,” Ault said. “We are in a very good place financially from a county standpoint. We’ve accomplished some good things in 2021 and want to continue to do so in 2022. Our budgets are under control, and we have some great people on staff, so we look forward to continuing to take care of Holmes County.”

One area of growth the commissioners cited in 2021 was water and sewer expansion. Winesburg and Berlin both recently received major updates.

“It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs,” Miller said. “And businesses can’t expand and thrive if we don’t provide them with infrastructure, and we have done that, and I am proud of what we have accomplished. We have built Walnut Creek’s sewer plant, we rebuilt Berlin and October Hills’ sewer plants, we did Mt. Hope, and now we are doing Winesburg, and we recognize the importance of providing that for our communities so they can grow. That’s a big part of why Holmes County is successful.”

Miller said the county’s sales tax for 2021 is up $2.5 million from the year before, a record year for the county. He said that is because the county has successfully ushered in new growth opportunities for businesses to thrive.

The other big focal point for 2022 will be the erection of the new Holmes County Health Building on Glen Drive. The commissioners said plans are already in motion to complete the new building in 2022.

“We’re looking at spring,” Ault said of the physical portion of the building going up. “They are currently jammed into their current building with Job & Family Services, and they need to get into their own building as soon as possible.”

Ault said the county continues to build its rainy day fund and also is in tremendous shape heading into 2022.