The Highland County Board of Commissioners is set to approve the county’s 2018 operating budget on Dec. 27 after review in coming weeks.
Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley on Wednesday presented the board with the county’s estimated resources for 2018, which total $10,300,000 — an increase of more than 5 percent from last year’s, which totalled $9,810,000.
Board president Shane Wilkin said he doesn’t anticipate any budget cuts for county departments this year, although he said some departments’ budget requests will have to be reduced, as they have in previous years.
Wilkin said county departments will turn in their budget requests next week, any final additions will be added Dec. 20, and a vote will be held on a finalized budget Dec. 27.
In other business, the board discussed ongoing issues with the Mowrystown sewer.
Wilkin said the commissioners received a letter from Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins regarding the possibility of a new sewer district to include the Mowrystown system and wastewater treatment plant, which have been a source of financial stress for the village for a number of years.
As reported by The Times-Gazette, the idea was brought up by Fred Beery, the village solicitor, in a letter several weeks ago outlining the village’s fiscal issues and the more aggressive measures it has taken to collect delinquent sewer bills.
In Collins’ letter, the prosecuting attorney said the establishment of a sewer district would divest the village of any power over the district and place the financial burden on the county, making it responsible for the debts associated with the sewer district — although Collins said the commissioners would receive for the use of the district any money currently held by the village and all future revenue associated with it.
Wilkin said the county is already financially responsible for paying off a loan it took out for the construction of the sewer system.
Later in the meeting, he said officials will continue to review the matter, later adding that the county is far from reaching a decision, and “maybe as far away as possible,” from forming the district.
Later in the meeting, Mowrystown resident Linda Klump expressed concern about village officials’ approach to the issue.
Among several allegations, Klump said village representatives had threatened to dig up her sewer connection and attempted to enforce a sewer connection ordinance that had not been approved.
Klump also said letters she sent to Mayor Frank Terwilliger on the matter were not acknowledged and eventually returned to her.
At one point, Wilkin stopped Klump, and said without the other parties present to defend themselves, the discussion was not fair.
Wilkin and commissioners Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton agreed Klump should set up an appointment with Collins on the matter.
In another matter, Wilkin said the board received an email from Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner requesting the commissioners transfer ownership of the health department’s space at the North High Business Center to the health department itself.
Warner said a recent change in state law allows health departments to own property, and if the health department owns its own space, it will be able to maintain a seat on the business center’s condo board when it assumes ownership of the building.
Wilkin said the email will be forwarded to Collins for review.
Also Wednesday, Wilkin said he expects negotiations between the county and the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, will continue into the new year.
The board also passed routine financial resolutions.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.
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