Highland County Board of Commissioners President Jeff Duncan met with officials from the Village of Mowrystown last week in an effort to address continuing problems with delinquent collections and “keeping their bills paid on their sewage treatment system.”
“They were in here for a meeting with me last week, talking about figuring out a way that the county can be able to help them,” Ducan said.
As previously reported by The Times-Gazette, Mowrystown’s sewer system and wastewater treatment plant have been a source of fiscal issues for both the village and Highland County for more than a decade.
According to information provided by the commissioners’ office, the county took out a loan of more than $2 million about 15 years ago to pay for the treatment plant’s construction, and since then Mowrystown has been struggling to keep up with paying the county back.
Duncan said that prior to his election to the Ohio House of Representatives, former commissioner Shane Wilkin had been working on a re-financing package to lower the village’s interest rate.
“We’re currently looking over their debt schedule, so we’re trying to evaluate what we can do to help with that situation,” he said. “They have hired an outside counsel to help them determine where they need to be on their collections to make ends meet, so that’s an ongoing thing and we’ll be meeting with them again soon.”
Also Monday, Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley told commissioners that sales tax receipts were “in the black” for the first three months of the year.
According to information from the auditor’s office, sales tax receipts were all up from this time last ago, with January up $25,000, February up almost $10,000 and March already up more than $35,000, with the increases attributed to motor vehicle sales.
Commissioner Gary Abernathy said he and his colleagues participated in a mock visit at the Leesburg Industrial Park last week to promote its viability for future industrial growth.
The visit, he said, was coordinated by board of commissioners clerk Nicole Oberrecht, was successful in proving the economic development capability of the park and was organized in conjunction with state and local officials, including Katy Farber of the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth.
“We spent probably three hours there Thursday afternoon,” he said. “Nicole prepared a Power Point presentation that showed all the aspects of it, which was very well done.”
He said the main idea of the mock visit was to be prepared in the event of a last-minute call from a company that may be touring an industrial park in a nearby city and would want to see the Leesburg park that same day.
Commissioner Terry Britton said the exercise was very productive and that Oberrechts’ presentation drew high marks from state officials.
“You really have to be ready almost at a moment’s notice when these people call,” Britton said. “Sometimes you have maybe an hour’s notice or less, but these are potential employers for our community so we want to be ready.”
Abernathy added that he would be attending a meeting Monday afternoon in Chillicothe dealing with economic development, sponsored by APEG.
In other news related to regional economic matters, Britton said at the Friday board of directors meeting of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted spoke on Gov. Mike DeWine’s budget proposals.
He said one of the highlight’s of the meeting was an earmark of $50 million for in-demand job programs, which will be routed through the vocational school systems throughout the state.
DeWine’s proposed 18-cent a gallon tax on gasoline wasn’t given much of a chance at passage, Britton said, with Husted telling the commissioners that the measure probably wouldn’t get through the Ohio senate.
Abernathy said conversations he has had with various legislative representatives indicated to him that they felt funding to repair road and bridge projects throughout the state could come from suspected waste and inefficiencies in the Ohio Department of Transportation and from general funding.
The governor’s proposed gasoline tax would raise $1.2 billion per year and would increase Ohio’s motor fuel user tax from 28 cents to 46 cents per gallon.
In other matters, Abernathy reminded everyone of the Ohio Power Siting Board hearing scheduled for Tuesday evening in Mowrystown.
The meeting will hear public comment, both for and against, the Hecate 300-megawatt solar panel farm project proposed for the Mowrystown-Buford area, and is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at Whiteoak High School.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.