MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Board of Commissioners attended to a wide range of business Thursday.
Bernie Packmeyer, the new superintendent of the Knox County Career Center stopped by to introduce herself to the board and to talk about some of KCCC’s current and upcoming activities. Packmeyer hails from Bellefontaine, where she taught marketing for eight years in a vocational school before going into administration for the local school district, where she remained involved with the vocational school. She said she has found Mount Vernon delightful, the people friendly and the students enthusiastic.
“The students are very engaged with their vocations,” Packmeyer said.
She said that two new vocational programs would be starting in August 2010: Sports Medicine and Early Childhood. The Early Childhood program will be a two-year training program teaching the knowledge and skills to students who have an interest in working in daycare. Packmeyer said that this program is ahead of the curve, falling into place before daycare training is required by the state of Ohio, though she said that it is very likely the state will soon make such training mandatory.
She also touted the school’s lunch program, which offers meals Tuesday through Friday from noon to 1:30 p.m., as well as the school’s auto repair program.
She said community business owners are very supportive of KCCC’s activities and have offered valuable help.
The commissioners received word from the Ohio Public Works Commission Thursday that no emergency funding would be granted to the county for repairs of a broken sewer line under the waters of Apple Valley Lake. The leak was discovered Oct. 7 and examined by divers the following two days.
According to the report to the commissioners from Water and Wastewater superintendent Ron Simpson, the 35-year old metal line broke when a collapsing bank shifted the ground underneath the line’s supports. The rigidly clamped line could not flex and broke. No sewage escaped into the lake, because the pressure inside the pipe is much lower than the pressure of the lake water on it. Thus, when it broke, lake water gushed into the sewer line, not vice versa. A new 18-inch high-tensile strength plastic line is being installed.
The OPWC letter cited denial of assistance on the grounds that the project resulted from normal deterioration. Stockberger said that if there was a significant earth movement underwater, that was outside the realm of “normal deterioration,” but he said that he wasn’t certain if they would have any recourse to appeal the decision.
In response to a request for funding confirmation, the commissioners received a message from Doug Givens, president of the Philander Chase Corp., and coordinator of the county’s agricultural easement applications. Givens said that the commissioners pledged $39,000 in matching grants on April 13, 2009, to put a portion of the Jerry Mickley farm into the program, which puts an easement on the property restricting it to agricultural use in perpetuity, so that it can’t be developed into strip malls or housing developments.
Miriam St. Jean met with the commissioners to address some concerns. She had a number of complaints about the current direction of the Knox County Area Development Foundation and said that she was one of many people opposed to the county providing money to ADF if the organization is not being transparent and doing all it can to bring in new business.
St. Jean was also concerned about the county prosecutor’s use of outside counsel for some activities. Commissioner Allen Stockberger said that his understanding was that Prosecutor John Thatcher used outside counsel in some cases for areas of special expertise. He added that the commissioners were not going to tell Thatcher how to run his office.
St. Jean protested that according to the Ohio Revised Code, the prosecutor should be seeking an approval from Judge Otho Eyster before hiring outside counsel.
“I’m pretty sure we went through the proper channels,” Stockberger said.
St. Jean said that she didn’t see anything on a couple of sample cases she pulled from public records. She said she wanted to know why lawyers from Columbus were being used, to which the commissioners responded that it was only some, with areas of special expertise, not all of the outside counsels. She also wanted to know why there were no judge’s approvals in the files she pulled. Stockberger said that approvals were done by counsel, not on a case-by-case basis, therefore, nothing would be in each separate file.
St. Jean then said she was concerned that Commissioner Robert Wise was profiting from selling propane to the Knox County Fair through his business, Wise Choice, while sitting on the fair board.
“I have never sat on the fair board,” Wise replied, explaining that county commissioners aren’t allowed to sit on county fair boards. He said that he cleared supplying propane with both the county’s lawyer and with his personal lawyer. He explained that he originally wanted to donate propane to the fair, but legislation prohibits that. Therefore, his company is supplying the fuel at the low rate of $1.39 per unit.
“To be honest, we’re profiting very little,” Wise said, and offered to let any other propane supplier use his tanks if they could supply propane to the fair at a better price.
St. Jean asked if she could get a statement from the prosecutor’s office confirming that there was no conflict of interest.
Wise welcomed her to ask the prosecutor for that.