MOUNT VERNON — Doug Givens had no illusions about easily securing funding when he walked into the office of the Knox County Commissioners, Thursday.
“I’d have to be a dingbat not to understand the county’s financial situation,” Givens, president of the Philander Chase Corp. conservation project, founded by Kenyon College to help obtain easements to preserve rural land against urban and suburban development. Givens has advised the county in recent years on making matching grants which have helped Knox County put easements on farms permanently restricting their use to agriculture.
To date, 10 county farms have entered the easement program, funded by the Clean Ohio Act, ranking Knox fifth in the state of Ohio for farmland preservation, behind Portage (11), Preble and Seneca (15 each), Clark (21), and Fulton (26). Knox is tied with Wayne County in fifth position. Most of Knox’s neighboring counties have fewer easements, or, as in the case of Richland and Coshocton Counties, none at all.
“You should feel quite proud about what’s happened in the farmland preservation game these last few years,” Givens said, citing the crucial assistance he has received from the commissioners, the map department and the county auditor’s office. He pointed out that some may complain about the expenditure of county money to help obtain the easements. If these farms are preserved as active, producing agricultural land for 100 years, the county’s investment amounts to pennies per acre, while the very real social and health benefits of farms will be of priceless value.
Givens said that of this year’s candidates, three look like they have a strong chance of making it into the program, because Knox County has been reassigned to Quadrant II of the state, which is the southeast quarter. Much less of this land is agricultural in nature than many other counties, therefore it is the least competitive quadrant. Givens said that since the state has decided to award an equal portion of grants to each quadrant this year, Knox’s chances of getting multiple farms in the program are superb.
The candidates this year are the Simpson property, which is 109 acres on Grove Church Road; the Thomas property, 110 acres on Hopewell Road; and the Helt property, 92 acres on Horn Road. Givens added that if there’s any way to boost the county’s points, there is also the sizable Horn property on Caves Road, which scored just below the top echelon. At 385 acres, it is comparable in size to the Mickley Farm on Howard-Danville Road, which went into an agricultural easement last year.
“I hope that you would do something for the program, but I understand that this might not be a good year,” Givens said. He added that the commissioners could, however, consider not pledging support now, but leave the door open to offer support in 2011, when the pledge would actually have to be paid. As Givens said, perhaps by then, the county’s financial situation will have improved substantially.
The commissioners said that they would review the material for Givens to submit materials in April. Givens also noted that he will be retiring from the Philander Chase Corporation in June.
In other business, Troy Cooper and Andrea Daubenmier from the OSU Extension Office stopped in to discuss the county’s recycling education program with the commissioners. Funded by a grant from the DKMM Solid Waste District, the recycling program has engaged elementary schoolers for the last three years in Knox County, thanks to the Extension’s efforts.
Cooper said that the new DKMM director, Larry Cooper, expressed an interest in doing more educational projects with high schoolers and college students. Cooper said that the extension is stretched too thin to expand its current program.
Commissioner Allen Stockberger said that he believed educating the youngest students was important to provide a base for all future recycling education, but he said that with a new director come new directions, and that the board would inquire with DKMM to see what changes might come with the grant money. The commissioners will contact Troy Cooper for a follow-up meeting as soon as more in known.
Thursday morning, Water and Wastewater superintendent Ron Simpson met with the commissioners for his weekly meeting. He said that he has ordered two 55-gallon drums of Delpac 2020, a coagulant which causes sediment in outflow water to stick together, becoming heavy and thus settling out of the water. This should help the county remain in compliance with wastewater discharge regulations. He also noted that remote camera viewing had been performed on the sewer mains at The Reserves, which were built in the past but never used. The mains looked fine, which will allow their use by a pending development. The commissioners and Simpson also discussed routing the Amity sewer line to Apple Valley in a way that will route it around some of the existing lift stations which are already at capacity.