The 91st Civil Affairs Battalion will again be helping Highland County with local projects.
Sgt. Major Joe Riley said during Wednesday’s meeting of the Highland County Commissioners that the training received from these exercises in area counties cannot be replicated at the battalion’s base in Fort Bragg, N.C.
At the fort, all training exercises are scripted. But the same is not true when teams help with local projects. “(They) have to adapt,” Riley said, which is what those teams will have to do when they are deployed to Africa.
Riley described the upcoming project as a six to seven day exercise, adding that it is important for the involved county to have a useable product at its end. “The priorities are driven by the county,” he said. “It’s critical that teams understand this is not a game.”
He added that in Highland County teams will be focusing on mapping radio community communication. Commissioner Shane Wilkin added that the county will “probably … add to that list and it will probably be a very different project.”
Wilkin also described some of the projects the 91st Civil Affairs Battalion has aided in the past, including the Rocky Fork area RFL ASAP grant and a walk-through of local schools identifying plans for a lockdown situation.
“There’s just simply a mound of work to do … that we could not have gotten finished,” Wilkin said. “It’s just been an excellent relationship … and we’re glad we have it.”
He added that the teams will be in civilian clothes and will not be carrying weapons.
Wednesday’s commissioners’ meeting also included a discussion concerning the acquisition of property for a project involving SR 73 and Prospect Road. Present were the involved property’s owners, Richard and Amy Throckmorton, Highland County Engineer Dean Otworth, and Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins.
Otworth said the project will begin at SR 124 and continue to where SR 73 intersects with Prospect Road, and then will go about 1,000 feet beyond that. He described it as a “safety project.”
“Everybody knows about the number of accidents that have happened on 73 over the years,” Otworth said.
He added that with 51 total parcels, this has been the largest land acquisition project of his career. All parcels have been negotiated, except the one belonging to the Throckmortons. Otworth said that a timeline issue has now arisen.
Richard Throckmorton told commissioners, “I agree 100-percent that something needs to be done at Prospect Road.” He added, “I think if maybe all along we could have gotten to talk,” then a resolution could have been reached sooner. He said that he had been told he could not speak with Otworth.
He said that last August or September, he had been asked if his fence could be removed and that it would “probably” be rebuilt. Since then, a 143-foot opening has remained, he said.
Throckmorton also said that, with this Prospect Road project, only about 30 feet of his driveway will belong to him. The rest will be owned by the county and that portion will be only 20 feet from his front door.
He added, “I’m losing front yard and side yard.”
Throckmorton also said that another parcel of land was paid 2.5 times the appropriation. Otworth said that figure was the result of the right of way being against that house.
The original offer to the Throckmortons was $10,054. Since then, the new driveway and a culvert have been added to the plan and the county has increased its offer to $13,554.
Following a short recess in which Wilkin, Collins, and Otworth spoke, a final agreement was reached for the $13,554 amount in addition to rebuilding the rest of the fence.
“We’re trying to be fair with you while also being responsible with the dollars,” Wilkin said. Throckmorton said he was happy with the agreement.
Also on Wednesday, commissioners passed two resolutions concerning bids for county projects. The first was a contractual agreement with Fillmore Construction for W. Main Street sidewalk improvements in Leesburg. This CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) project is for $24,753. The second was for the handicap ramp at the Highland County Administration building. The agreement is with Dance Excavation, LLC for $59,000.
Also passed was a resolution establishing the deposit for the vacating of a public road. This follows a discussion last week for petitioners who want an alley closed to pay for the necessary advertising.
In other business, Wilkin said that some county departments have returned reduced budgets. These follow the MCO (managed care organization) changes which will no longer permit the county to impose sales taxes on them.
In another matter, Commissioner Jeff Duncan said that commissioners have hired Heidi Devine as the new head of recycling for the county. She is retired from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), he added.
“She’s looking forward to it, and we are also,” Duncan said.
Commissioner Tom Horst added that the county is looking for a recycling drop-off location in the Rocky Fork Lake area, as well as an additional drop-off in Hillsboro.
Horst also said that the Highland County Visitors Bureau will be holding an open house Thursday, from 5 to 7 p.m. The community is invited to meet the new director, Destiny Bryson.
Wilkin said that commissioners are finishing a closing binder agreement with Corvac Composites. This agreement concerns a revolving door loan for a total of $915,000. Wilkin said that “those dollars (will be) coming back to us, with interest.”
Wilkin also said that the commissioners’ office will continue with retention and expansion surveys next month. During these, the office meets with local businesses and “(checks) their pulse,” Wilkin said by determining the businesses’ status and any obstacles preventing growth.
Commissioners also viewed an alley in New Market and later passed a resolution agreeing to vacate that alley.
Finally, commissioners selected paint colors for the Hi-Tech Center. The painting will be done over fair week. Horst also said that commissioners will look into replacing the wooden tables there with plastic ones. These improvements come from capital improvement funds.