MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Commissioners spent much of the day Thursday outlining plans for upcoming projects ranging from trail improvements and budget adjustments to neighborhood revitalization.
Amy Schocken of the Ohio Community Development Corporation, Jason Booth of Knox Metropolitan Housing, Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis and Mount Vernon Safety-Service Director David Glass joined the commissioners to take the first steps in creating a Neighborhood Stabilization Program for Region 9 of Ohio, consisting of Knox County, the city of Mount Vernon, and Richland County. This region has been awarded a grant of $1.155 million for the redevelopment of foreclosed homes, the purchasing and rehabilitation of abandoned or foreclosed residential properties for resale to middle income families (no more than 120 percent the county median income), the demolition of blighted residential structures, and the purchase and redevelopment of rental properties for residents who make less than 50 percent of the median income.
To determine which governmental entity in the region would serve as lead agency for the administration of the NSP, the commissioners called the Richland County Commissioners for a conference call. The Richland Commissioners, Ed Olson, Gary Utt and Tim Wert, were joined by Regional Planning Commission representative Dick Adair. After review, and extended commentary from Olson, it was decided that Richland County would not serve as lead agency. The lead agency will receive at least half of the 10 percent of funding set aside for administration of the NSP.
The Knox County Commissioners and Mayor Mavis decided to wait and decide whether the county or city of Mount Vernon would serve as lead agent after the new county auditor was appointed. The decision will be rendered Monday. The deadline for the region to announce its lead agent is Jan. 16, and potential grant areas must be identified by the end of February.
Earlier in the day, the commissioners, Knox County Park District Director Kim Marshall, and consultants from ADR Engineering met with Randy Comisford of the Ohio Department of Transportation and Amy Toohey, an ODOT environmental coordinator, to make a plan of attack for processing a grant awarded in December for paving of a section of the Heart of Ohio Trail running from Centerburg to Updike Road. Comisford said that the next step would be for the county to hire a consultant to get the current construction proposal re-evaluated to reflect changes in the economy, and to submit it to ODOT by Jan. 30. Comisford said that it should remain close to the original proposal or else ODOT would not approve it.
According to Comisford, the funding is promised for the fiscal year 2011, but can not be guaranteed, due to recent state budget tightening. If the funding remains available, the state’s funds will pay for 80 percent of the cost of paving the trail section, while the final 20 percent would come from the county. Funds will become available at the beginning of FY 2011, which begins with July 2010, but Comisford recommended that the commissioners wait to collect bids later in the year, when bids are likely to be lower. This would still allow time for the awarding of the contract before FY 2011 is up in June 2011. Comisford added that the project would have to have an inspector other than the designer, which may be provided by Knox County Engineer Jim Henry’s department.
Toohey said that inspection of the site will have to be made to assure that no environmental issues, wetland drainage or archeological concerns would hamper construction at the site. She also noted that federal rules will require alternate path access around the construction site on the trail. Commissioner Allen Stockberger said that it shouldn’t be difficult to divert pedestrians onto other roads.
The commissioners also met with Emergency Management Agency Director Marie Blubaugh, who was requesting more funding from the commissioners to help cover the salary of Assistant Director Brian Hess. The current county contribution to EMA is $30,000, 60 percent of its funding. The other 40 percent comes from the 0.25-percent sales tax which funds 9-1-1 services. After going into executive session for personnel discussions for 15 minutes, the commissioners said that the general fund is so tight, they couldn’t raise EMA’s funding, though they said that they would ask the 9-1-1 board if current fund distribution could be changed, as the 9-1-1 fund is doing fine at this point. Stockberger said that they would ask for the new percentage to be county, 55 percent, and 9-1-1 tax, 45 percent.