Lake road closure questioned

Children Services issues brought before commissioners

By Angela Shepherd - [email protected]

Approval, or not, from the Highland County Board of Commissioners for closure of a road leading to Rocky Fork Lake’s North Beach will have to wait a little longer.

The proposal to close North Beach Road to vehicle traffic, thereby restricting entry to the area to just one entrance/exit point as a measure to control crime, was made at last week’s meeting by ODNR officer Adam Somerville. The only entrance to North Beach by vehicle would then be an ODNR road that passes by docks off of North Shore Drive.

The plan Somerville detailed to commissioners at the meeting would put guardrails across North Beach Road just past Holiday Way, and would still allow passage for foot traffic.

He said ODNR is hopeful that the closure would allow for better patrolling by park rangers. And Somerville said when he’s parked at the activity center, anyone looking to commit wrongdoing might think twice about it since they would have to pass by him first.

At that meeting, the ODNR officer also said the guardrails would be “a quick fix,” and that other options had been discussed.

According to commissioners Tom Horst and Jeff Duncan, Highland County Engineer Dean Otworth has inspected the area in consideration of the proposed closing of North Beach Road, but Horst said the engineer “has some questions.” For instance, in regard to where the county ends and the park begins on North Beach Road.

Also, Duncan said he was contacted by Paint Township trustees, who oppose the proposal of a permanent structure closing the road as “they felt like it would impede some of the traffic at the lake,” Duncan said.

He said the trustees; however, suggested the installation of “something that could be opened and closed” at certain times of the day rather than the proposed guard rails.

Commissioners said Otworth would look into things more and consult with ODNR before a decision is reached on the matter.

“This is a work in progress,” Horst said.

On another matter, Ashley Chain met with commissioners and read a letter she wrote in regard to her experiences with Children Services.

She said she has come to have permanent custody of two children, who she said came to her with “minimal” information on the kids’ background from the agency, though she knew the children had been in foster care for some time. She talked about observing troubling behavior in the children that was the result of treatment at previous placement households.

Chain talked about the previous placement of the children in inappropriate situations in homes outside of Highland County where people resided that had criminal records, some with “violent offenses,” she said.

Chain had a stack of documents, which she said were criminal records relating to people that had been in households with the children prior to their placement with her. She said she was able to find the records “in a matter of days.” She asked about the purpose of background checks for prospective caregivers if she could uncover criminal records with little effort, and if things like inappropriate placements could happen.

Chain, who indicated that she has spoken to many people on the matter before coming to commissioners, asked if it was the agency’s duty to the children to do its “due diligence?”

She said “the agency has failed” the children, and likely many more than the children that are in her care.

Highland County Assistant Prosecutor Molly Bolek said that Katie Adams, the recently-hired deputy director at Job and Family Services who begins next week, said she would “be happy” to meet with Chain to talk about Chain’s concerns, and that Adams “was in a position to address” those concerns.

Bolek, and Larry McGuire of Children Services both told Chain of state-mandated requirements that the agency is bound by, and that foster homes outside of Highland County are bound by the same.

McGuire said that if an “inaccuracy” is reported, the agency does look into it, adding that Children Services will do its “due diligence.” Adams, who Bolek said comes with a lot of knowledge from the state level, used to be in the position at the state level receiving those reports, McGuire said.

Chain, who thanked commissioners for their time, met with Bolek following the meeting to set up an appointment with Adams.

In other business, Horst said that in regard to renovations at the county courthouse, commissioners have received preliminary proposals, but are inquiring further before proceeding. Horst said the county has the money, but commissioners want to make sure that money is being put toward the right things.

Horst said what is planned is painting the cupola and its dome, painting the front gables, and cleaning and repointing the brick.

Finally, Horst said a definitive decision would come by next week as to whether there would or would not be an increase to Rocky Fork Lake sewer customers as new payment coupon books are soon to go out.

Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.
Children Services issues brought before commissioners

By Angela Shepherd

[email protected]