Improvements to a railroad line connecting Greenfield with Clinton County is vitally important to preserving jobs, according to Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin, who shared details of a meeting he and Commissioner Jeff Duncan had with Clinton County commissioners Tuesday.
Calling their trip “a great ice-breaker,” Wilkin thanked Duncan for his help in securing guidance and support for a needed railroad project that he described as “very important to our region.”
Wilkin said a $6 million grant was awarded in 2016 for improvements on the 29-mile railroad line owned by the village of Greenfield that extends from Greenfield through Leesburg and New Vienna, and then into Clinton County. But Wilkin said that by the time construction was set to begin the cost of the project had tripled.
“We went to Clinton County because a portion of the rail that we own, about one-third of it, is in Clinton County,” Wilkin said. “We have applied for ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) money, but that can be applied only to Highland County work.”
Because of what he described as their “shared economy,” Wilkin said the hope is to partner with the commissioners in Clinton County to see if there is infrastructure money that could be applied to railroad work in their section.
While Greenfield receives about $60,000 in revenue annually from the railroad, Wilkin said expenditures total nearly $100,000 a year “so you can see we’re going to run out of money eventually.”
He said the railroad line directly supports Huhtamaki in New Vienna, Candle-lite in Leesburg and Adient in Greenfield, with about 1,200 jobs dependent upon the rail line.
“I felt like it was a good positive meeting,” Duncan said. “Hopefully, there will be some good news that will come out of it.”
In light of the July 5 government report on the economy, which showed robust growth in job creation, Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley submitted figures showing marked increases in the sales tax numbers, which are up more than $200,000 from the same time last year.
Sales tax figures for the year showed an average increase of a little more than $33,000 a month when contrasted with 2018 numbers.
Revenue for last year dipped substantially due to a change in the tax law in 2017 regarding durable medical equipment sales to managed care organizations, such as nursing homes.
As previously reported, Duncan said Ohio had been able to collect sales tax from Medicaid payments for managed care organizations on equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers, but that later, the federal government told the state to cease the practice.
Duncan said the sales tax figures show that people appreciate the value of shopping locally, and “that helps everyone here in Highland County.”
Also Wednesday, commissioners accepted a quote for $1,800 from Dance Excavating for landscaping work needed at the Highland County Justice Center, centering on removing greenery from around the flagpole and reterracing the area with concrete.
“In conversations with the sheriff, he said he’d rather see the landscaping removed and replaced with cement around the flagpole,” Duncan said. “It would still be appealing to the eye, but not so much maintenance, and sometimes the current landscaping hinders them from putting up and taking down the flag.”
In other matters, commissioners approved eight resolutions, seven of which were line item budget transfers with the other one authorizing the county to sell surplus equipment at public auction set for 10 a.m. Saturday, July 27 at the Highland County Fairgrounds.
Duncan indicated the auction would be “a joint effort” since it also involved other entities from around Highland County, such as the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District and Southern State Community College.
Wilkin also reminded everyone that the annual Greene Countrie Towne Festival kicks off Thursday in Greenfield with the queen’s pageant at the McClain High School auditorium. The festival runs through Sunday afternoon.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.