SWCD needs more help to handle grant


More hands on deck are needed by the Highland County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to help implement a sizable grant, and the district is asking commissioners for one employee.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners, representatives of the district, which included director of operations Pam Bushelman and district technician Chuck Williams as well as members of the district’s board of supervisors, said the district’s workload has increased. Another employee is needed, they said, as the SWCD readies for implementation of an $850,000 federal grant, gained through a partnership with ODNR , the city of Hillsboro, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Wild Turkey Federation.

The grant, which is over a five-year period, is for conservation practices and water quality in the Clear Creek watershed, which comprises a total of 29,000 acres.

None of the grant money can be applied to administrative costs, representatives said, and the commissioners said they are unable to commit to adding an employee at this point in time. According to Bushelman, if the county can provide a dollar amount by the end of April, which is the end of the district’s fiscal year, the state would match the funds.

Because Clear Creek empties into Rocky Fork Lake, commission board president Shane Wilkin suggested the group talk to Turning Point Applied Learning Center Director LuAnn Winkle, who is project director of the Rocky Fork Lake Area Safety and Advancement Plan (RFL-ASAP), to see if the two projects are “compatible.”

Those involved with the RFL-ASAP have worked the last year and half on developing an evidence-based, data-driven, community-oriented plan to reduce crime, improve public safety, and revitalize targeted neighborhoods of the Rocky Fork Lake area. It has all been funded by a $100,000 grant from the Byrnes Criminal Justice Department. Wilkin said the RFL-ASAP group is nearing completion of its plan and will be ready to apply for implementation grant funding to fund the solutions identified.

Wilkin said the two groups might discover a symbiosis as their projects have the common thread of Rocky Fork Lake.

Bushelman also announced that Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels will be the featured speaker at a Celebrate Ag Week event on March 16 in Highland County. She said the event was invitation only.

For more information about the SWCD, go to highlandswcd.com.

In other business, commissioners have been working on a policy regarding $10,000 annually the county gets from the solid waste district for recycling and cleanup purposes, and how that might be utilized by townships.

The policy is not yet final, and Wilkin suggested changes on Wednesday based on recent experiences with Clay Township and a large tire and trash cleanup that cost much more than the $3,500 the board agreed to help out with.

Wilkin suggested that townships could apply for up to $5,000 from the county for an eligible project, a change from $2,500, he said. Townships would be required to match funds “dollar for dollar.” The example given was if a township has a $6,000 project, it would request $3,000 from the county and pay the remainder from its own coffers. Commissioners Tom Horst and Jeff Duncan agreed with the suggested change, though no formal vote was taken as the policy is still in the draft phase.

Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins is to review the policy, Wilkin said.

The Highland County Board of Commissioners meets each Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. in the board’s office on the second floor of the Highland County Administration Building located at 119 Governor Foraker Pl., Suite 211, Hillsboro. The meetings are open to the public.

Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.

Commissioners Jeff Duncan, Shane Wilkin, and Tom Horst are pictured during Wednesday’s meeting.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2016/03/web1_commish.jpgCommissioners Jeff Duncan, Shane Wilkin, and Tom Horst are pictured during Wednesday’s meeting.
Organization received $850,000 grant for Clear Creek watershed

By Angela Shepherd

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