MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Commissioners had a busy day Monday. Allen Stockberger, Robert Wise and Teresa Bemiller reviewed everything from attempts to glean stimulus plan money to budgetary maneuvers.
The commissioners met with Water and Wastewater Superintendent Ron Simpson, giving him clearance to request a proposal from four finalists to build the new 500,000-gallon water tank at Apple Valley. The finalists, selected by the commissioners, were KEM & Associates of Mansfield, ME of Westerville, Poggemeyer of Westerville and Richland of Mansfield.
Simpson returned later in the day with Jeffery P. Carr, project manager from ADR & Associates of Newark. Carr said ADR has submitted funding requests to the state of Ohio to help pay for the hamlet wastewater project which the commissioners have been working on the last two years. To cut down on the pollution problems being caused by overflowing septic systems in the larger unincorporated hamlets of the county, decentralized wastewater treatment systems are being designed for as many as seven communities, which could include Amity, Brandon, Bladensburg, Jelloway, Millwood, Mount Liberty and Rich Hill.
According to Carr, projects like these are being targeted for approval. To increase the county’s edge, the grant requests are not being made for 100 percent funding, which is what most communities are doing. Instead, the Knox requests are for 74 percent funding, with the county coming up with 26 percent of the funds. The county will be notified if its projects have been short-listed for submission to the Environmental Protection Agency for the final round of funding decisions.
Carr also advised the commissioners on talking points and effective terminology to use when they visit Washington, D.C., next month to lobby congressmen on Knox County projects. The commissioners were advised to point out that 90 percent of rural hamlets are failing health department inspections in Ohio, requiring the hamlet wastewater system project. The project doesn’t merely impact the 1,289 residents of those hamlets, but also the businesses, employees, customers and tourists of those areas, not to mention every point south from Ohio to Louisiana that is downstream of the hamlets, which are all in the Muskingum Watershed.
Job & Family Services director Roger Shooter spoke to the commissioners about Medicaid. Figures show Knox County’s Medicaid expenditures in 2008 were $93,679,560. Expenditures supporting the elderly and disabled people amounted to more than 70 percent of the 2008 figures, even though those enrollees only make up 22 percent of those in the program.
“Moms and kids are cheap compared to nursing homes,” Shooter said.
He added that one help will be that $3 billion of the stimulus funds coming to Ohio will be in the form of reduced Medicaid matching funds. The problem, though, he said, is that Medicaid coverage is slated to expand in the future to those within 300 percent of the federal poverty level, up from 200 percent.
Pat Crow, executive director of the Knox County Convention and Visitors Bureau, was joined by CVB Board Chairman Matt Starr and Vice Chairwoman Gloria Parsisson to review the 2008 bicentennial year. Crow said the CVB spent $37,000 in marketing in 2008, and sponsored numerous events for the county’s bicentennial. He noted that with the recent economic slump, bed tax collections have slipped down the last couple of years.
Current and previous marketing efforts include the 2009 Visitor’s Guide, of which Crow expects to distribute about 70,000. There are also advertisements in Discover Ohio, Mohican Country Magazine, Central Ohio Heritage Circle and more. Crow said he expects a county bicentennial mural to be painted beside the city’s bicentennial mural downtown in the spring of this year, if funds remain.
Knox County Sheriff David Barber, Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher and Shooter met with the commissioners to clarify the budgeting structure that pays for the Knox County Children Services investigator hired by the county last year. The position is paid out of the children services tax levy. After some clarification about how the money was routed last year, it was agreed that for 2009, the investigator’s salary will be paid directly from the levy fund; benefits will be paid through the non-law enforcement division of the sheriff’s office, ultimately coming out of the General Fund. Thatcher said the position has proven a valuable one, with the investigator, Tom Bumpus, doing a phenomenal job, investigating approximately 80 cases last year.