Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley informed county commissioners at their Wednesday meeting of his plans to retire, but said he will continue to serve the county in the office he was re-elected to last November.
“Normally, if an elected official is going to retire and then keep their job, they normally do it when their term ends on Dec. 31,” he told The Times-Gazette. “In my case, the auditor’s new term doesn’t begin on Jan. 1 but instead starts the second Monday in March, so therefore for me to start drawing retirement benefits I have to retire at of the end of February since my new term begins March 11.”
The 72-year-old Fawley, who in light of announcing his retirement jokingly described himself as “one of those evil double-dipping guys,” said commissioners by resolution appointed him to serve in the 10-day interim between retirement and the beginning of his new term of office.
“In the business world, it’s called ‘retirement with a rehire,” he said.
A swearing-in ceremony for Fawley is planned for Tuesday, March 5 at 5 p.m. in the lower level of the Highland County Administration Building.
Creed Culbreath, a part-time investigator with the Highland County Coroner’s Office and a member of REACH for Tomorrow, requested a letter of support and endorsement for the Get Worker FIT program, which was originally presented to the commissioners Dec. 19 by the organization’s chief executive officer, Dr. Denise Reading.
Reading said that there will be 55 million job openings by 2020 and of those, roughly one-third will require the “right” bachelor’s degree, one-third will require an associate’s degree or field certification, and the other third will need applicants with a high school diploma.
According to statistics from Get Worker FIT, 93 percent of businesses believe colleges and universities are not preparing graduates with the skills they need to succeed in a career, and of those who graduated college, 54 percent believe they are currently underemployed.
“Everybody that comes out of high school should be ready, willing and able to go to work,” she said. “Regardless of whether they’re college bound or not.”
Culbreath said the DeWine administration has released $20 million in funding for a two-year program to study the Get Worker FIT in a five-county region in southern Ohio and requested letters of support from leaders in Highland, Adams, Brown, Scioto and Pike counties, including leadership from Southern State Community College.
“I think that this is a great opportunity to transform lives and transform our county,” he said. “That way, if we have people that have no idea how to enter the work force and stay in the work force, they would be employed and would be able to match up their job skills and interests with meaningful employment.”
Considering it a matter of economic development, commissioners Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton went into executive session to hear a presentation from Patti Shore, vice-president of project development and Development Assistant Jared Wren of Hecate Energy LLC regarding the company’s plan to build a 300-magawatt solar power generating facility north of Mowrystown.
Commissioner Gary Abernathy was absent from the meeting, taking part in a program for high school students in Washington, D.C. with an interest in politics and journalism.
The Ohio Power Siting Board has scheduled a hearing for March 19 at Whiteoak High School in Mowrystown from 6-8 p.m. to hear public comment on the planned Hecate facility.
Steve Fleegal from the Appalachia Ohio Alliance gave a progress report on property acquisitions the organization has made, telling commissioners that they are currently working with the Ohio Department of Transportation for mitigation work concerning the Indiana bat, which he said is on the endangered species list.
Due to the limited amount of funding available through ODOT, he said they have found additional funding through the Clean Ohio Fund which would allow the organization to purchase additional properties favorable to the Indiana bat population.
Fleegal requested a letter of support from commissioners so that the additional funding could be secured.
Regarding the Fairfield Local School District’s Safe Routes to School committee, Jim Henry from E.P. Ferris and Associates of Columbus gave a presentation to commissioners regarding its school travel plan upgrade for additional right-of-way construction on SR 771, across from the Fairfield Local Schools.
Henry said commissioners, on behalf of the township, would have authority by legislation to authorize the chairperson of the committee to submit an application for grant funding of the project, which he said would be covered 100 percent by the grant when awarded.
He also requested a letter of support and asked that if everything is approved and the property is acquired, that the commissioners hold the property, which he said is adjacent to the Leesburg Industrial Park.
In other matters, commissioners approved three resolutions, one of which was a line item budget transfer, another for the waiving of monthly sewer fees for property that was verified as being vacant, and the last being the interim 10-day appointment of Fawley to fill a vacancy in the auditor’s office until his new term commences on March 11.
Commissioners also agreed to provide letters of support for Highland Health Providers so the organization could gain access to funding, and to the Appalachian Opportunity Corridor project for construction efforts taking place on SR 32 in Clermont County.
“They’re asking for a letter of support since Route 32 is a main corridor for the southern part of the state, and does affect our county,” Duncan said. “The request states ‘investment along this critical roadway would bring about positive transformation for many underserved communities, including our’s, which has an unemployment rate higher than the state and national average.’”
Also Wednesday, commissioners approved a contract renewing a lease agreement with Vantage Way of Akron for space at the Hi-Tech Center, and another between Greystone Systems and the prosecutor’s office regarding upgrading to Microsoft Office 365 email.
Approval was also given to change the purchase order for a truck for the Highland County Emergency Management Agency, due to General Motors’ inability to fulfill the original order made last year, and to buy a different one that was immediately available.
Duncan said commissioners had been searching for a vehicle that would satisfy EMA requirements and recently found one that had more options than were originally needed and for an additional $3,750.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.