Feds continue reviewing RFL grant request


Federal officials are still reviewing a request from the Highland County Board of Commissioners for a 24-month extension for an embattled economic development grant for the Rocky Fork Lake area.

Commissioner Gary Abernathy said commissioners received an update last week from officials with the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, the division of the Department of Justice that awarded the grant, saying they are continuing review of the proposed budget and a request to extend the life of the grant from 12 months to two years.

The on-again, off-again, and now on-again Rocky Fork Lake Area Safety and Advancement Project is a more than $800,000 grant that was awarded in October 2016. The funds were earmarked for crime prevention, blighted property removal and economic development in the Rocky Fork Lake region.

As previously reported, the grant stalled earlier this year when federal officials said they had problems with some aspects of the grant administration here, particularly the involvement of the county land bank, and commissioners nearly gave up on securing the dollars in recent weeks by allowing the the grant to expire.

But shortly after the commissioners announced they would let the expiration date pass, the Byrne program approved a one-year extension for the grant. Two weeks ago, commissioners said they would request a two-year extension for the grant, saying one year is not enough to accomplish all that needs to be done at the lake.

The request has been pending ever since.

Abernathy said he anticipates another phone conversation with DOJ officials by the end of the week.

Commissioner Terry Britton extended congratulations to local radio veteran Willard Parr, who mostly wrapped up a 62-year radio career on Tuesday with a final remote broadcast at Jerry Haag Motors in Hillsboro.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t say congratulations to Willard Parr,” he said. “He probably doesn’t want to retire, but I commend him on taking a leap of faith and beginning a new chapter in his life.”

Commissioner Jeff Duncan called Parr “a mainstay of the county and the first voice you heard in the morning on WSRW.”

“When I started at the paper back in 1983,” Abernathy recalled, “there was a bit of a rivalry between the Press-Gazette and the radio station, but Willard became somebody I really admired, and I treasured his friendship over the years.”

Britton also commended board of commissioner’s secretary Mary Remsing regarding her efforts at insuring compliance in the County Risk Sharing Authority.

According to Britton, Remsing coordinated the course of training in the loss control incentive program, requiring 80 percent of the elected officials and department heads to participate. She said that CORSA compliance helps reduce property and casualty insurance costs to the county.

Britton noted that a new roof was recently installed at the Highland County Probation Department, which had been plagued with various leaks in recent months.

“They should be dry from now on,” he said.

Duncan said with rain in the forecast later in the week, “we’ll see if the contractor did a good job.”

Commissioners approved the county’s existing bill file, but went into recess until Thursday at 2 p.m. due to complications regarding an overseas funds transfer from Highland County Childrens Services. County Auditor Bill Fawley said the commissioners will approve that invoice when they reconvene after the transfer has been finalized.

Commissioners also approved routine financial resolutions and contracts.

Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.

From left, Highland County commissioners Gary Abernathy, Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton discuss business items during their regular Wednesday morning meeting.
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2018/10/web1_f-Commish-24-Oct-18.jpgFrom left, Highland County commissioners Gary Abernathy, Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton discuss business items during their regular Wednesday morning meeting. Tim Colliver | The Times-Gazette
2-year extension still being considered, board waits for updates

By Tim Colliver

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