The Highland County Commissioners said Wednesday that they are continuing to pursue a federal economic development grant for the Rocky Fork Lake area, with Commissioner Gary Abernathy saying the county has filed a 24-month extension request with the Department of Justice in hopes of replacing a 12-month extension granted Sept. 27.
As previously reported, commissioners Abernathy, Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton agreed in recent weeks to cautiously continue pursuing the embattled $844,000 grant after they received word that the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, the division of the Department of Justice that awarded the funds, had granted a 12-month extension for the grant.
But commissioners said last week that one year is not enough time to accomplish their goals for the lake area, and requested Highland County’s state and national representatives throw their weight behind a request for a two-year extension.
Abernathy said the commissioners are continuing to communicate with DOJ officials regarding the grant.
“In the last communication we got from them, they said they took the request under advisement,” he said. “We get an email once a day from our federal contacts saying ‘we’re still reviewing your request’ so they’re at least staying in touch with us on a regular basis.”
In other business, commissioners proclaimed Oct. 23-31 Red Ribbon Week, observing a national program established by Congress in 1988 for drug abuse prevention and education.
“Education is an integral part of drug prevention,” Duncan said prior to reading the proclamation. “The sheriff has implemented the DARE program, and I think it’s exciting that he’s picked that back up and ran with it again.”
Kevy Jones, the Red Ribbon Week coordinator for Fairfield Local Schools, told The Times-Gazette that different promotions are in place to help with student awareness.
“We get local businesses to sponsor each day of Red Ribbon Week to reinforce to our students the value of making drug-free choices, and though the national program extends to the end of the month, schools like our’s will do it Oct. 22 through Oct. 26,” she said.
Jones said Monday will be Twizzlers Day, with the theme of “Don’t let drugs twist your mind.” Tootsie Rolls will be featured Tuesday, encouraging students to “Keep on a roll being drug-free.”
Keeping “Your commit-mint to being drug-free” will be the thrust of Wednesday, featuring peppermint patties.
To coincide with Beggar’s Night on Thursday, Oct. 25, M&M’s will be the featured candy with the theme “drugs are no treat.”
“On Friday, the Scioto-Paint Valley Board of Mental Health purchased suckers for everyone,” she said, “and the theme that day will be ‘Don’t be a sucker, don’t do drugs.’”
Jones also said the Paint Valley Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board is sponsoring a contest with all the schools in the county, where students handwrite a 300-word essay in red ink, and the winner receives a $500 scholarship.
“There are three topics they can write about,” she said. “One is ‘Life is a journey… be the one to travel drug and alcohol free,’ another is ‘How will you be the one to make a difference in your community?’ and the last is ‘Why are drugs, alcohol and tobacco dangerous?’”
In other matters, Abernathy commended sheriff’s office staff for working over the weekend to calculate backpay for deputies under a recently approved union contract.
“They worked all weekend to calculate the back pay that was due to all the deputies,” he said. “That was retroactive back to January, and I know Donnie, Jacquie and Chuck spent a lot of time over the weekend and we appreciate all their hard work on getting that taken care of.”
Duncan said new Knox boxes have been installed in the county courthouse to address a situation that occurred several weeks ago where a fire alarm was triggered at the courthouse after hours, but keys couldn’t be located for entry. The Knox box is a small wall-mounted safe that stores keys for fire and emergency personnel for after-hours entry if an alarm goes off.
“We had these boxes put on the front of county buildings so now the fire department will have access to keys so they can get in,” he said. “It really is something you don’t think about until it happens, and luckily, that fire alarm at the courthouse turned out to be false.”
Duncan said permissive sales tax receipts for the month were down only slightly from the year before, which he described as “very good news.”
“We were only down $524 for October,” he said. “Last month was a little above what we thought it might be and this month, it looks a lot better and hopefully the next two months will follow suit.”
Commissioners also approved routine financial resolutions.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.