The Highland County commissioners officially signed-off on new annual appropriations budget for 2020 after returning from executive session Wednesday afternoon.
The $10.6 million budget for county operations was an increase of $300,000 over last year’s spending plan with Jeff Duncan, board president, saying Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley credited improved sales tax revenues for the increase.
He also acknowledged additional funding considerations for local governments in the state budget that was signed by Gov. Mike DeWine back in July.
“For the most part, I think everyone got at least what they requested and some in addition to,” Duncan said. “So I think everyone should be pretty well pleased with how everything came out.”
In a separate matter, stating that safety and security are the biggest challenges facing facilities like the Highland County Justice Center, Sheriff Donnie Barrera invited an Aramark representative to again speak with county commissioners concerning the high-tech body scanner that has been under discussion to be installed at the jail.
Acquisition of the body scanner had been put on hold when it was discovered the video surveillance system at the jail was in immediate need of replacement so the facility would remain in compliance with state law enforcement standards.
Barrera told commissioners Gary Abernathy, Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton that as of Wednesday, 91 inmates were being housed at the jail, with that number sometimes exceeding 100.
He said that the proposed scanner would be a benefit to all law enforcement, since in his view anyone being booked into the jail would be subjected to another layer of protection and security.
Addressing those two subjects, Aramark Food, Facility and Uniform Services representative Mike Colvin brought along with him Julie Jones, the kitchen manager at the justice center.
“She is one who has to deal with the inmate population that is helping her cook meals day to day for those 91 inmates,” Colvin said. “And the reason she’s here is that’s it important to realize who these people are that we are protecting, and the safety and security measures related to the body scanner is about keeping people safe.”
On any given day, Colvin said, there are many people going in and out of the jail that try to bring things in they shouldn’t, with those smuggled items often times being weapons, drugs, or both.
The technology isn’t cheap, Barrera said, with the scanner in question costing upward of $118,000. But Aramark’s proposal has the financing coming as part of what the company charges per meal for inmates.
After Barrera took office in 2015, the typical inmate meal cost $2.60. But that amount was reduced significantly to the current price of $1.91 per meal, due to negotiations between the sheriff’s office and Aramark.
“Basically, you (Aramark) buy the scanner, and the way we pay it back is by the slight increase in the meals,” Abernathy said.
Colvin added installation of the scanner, which he said would come at no extra interest or financing charges to the county, would be gainful from the standpoint of “safety and security of my people” and would be an extension of the continued partnership with Highland County.
The scanner proposed to the commissioners last year was the SOTER RS full body security scanning system from OD Security/North America, which is designed to detect metal, plastic, organic and inorganic contraband that may be concealed outside or inside the body.
According to information from the OD Security website, the entire scanning process takes eight to 10 seconds, with no radiation exposure to the jail operator and minimal exposure to the inmate being booked.
Barrera said he was looking into another somewhat portable scanner that was about $30,000 lower in cost that would not require any remodeling of the jail facility to install.
Alicia Silvero of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources presented commissioners with information regarding the county becoming a part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
Highland County is the only Ohio county that doesn’t participate in the program, with Abernathy noting that the main hold-up was finding “someone to properly administer it.”
“Honestly, I don’t know of any community in the state that has a full-time flood plain manager,” Silvero said. “Most of them are engineers, safety service directors, building or zoning inspectors and some of them are even mayors, but usually it’s someone who wears another hat in the community.”
Two people that would be involved in any flood insurance program are Highland County Engineer Chris Fauber and Emergency Management Agency Director David Bushelman, both of whom were at Wednesday’s meeting.
Duncan said that after the first of the year, they would like Silvero to return to give a more in-depth briefing of the NFIP to see if would be a good fit for Highland County.
In other matters Wednesday, a total of 10 resolutions were approved, nine of which were line item budget transfers or modifications, and the tenth being approval of the 2020 county budget.
Three contracts were accepted by commissioners. They included a one-year lease agreement with Vantage Aging for office space at the Hi-Tech Center, with Simplex Grinnell for a fire and security agreement with the Highland County Justice Center, and another was an amendment to the Sept. 1, 2000 agreement for wastewater service at Rocky Fork Lake State Park.
Duncan was authorized to execute a pair of agreements with Greystone Systems, Inc. for the repair of the fire alarm system at the Hi-Tech Center, and to install a cell radio and trouble sounder for the alarm reporting system in the Highland County Administration Building.
He said the total cost for repair or replacement of the system was estimated at $2,300 for both buildings.
Commissioners also voted to accept an estimate of $2,600 from Dance Excavation for the repairs of the curb sidewalk that runs along the alley side of the Administration Building.
Duncan said the current sidewalk is in a deteriorated state, is allowing moisture to enter the basement, and that the project would include removal and re-installation of a new sidewalk in addition to new roof down spouting and drainage.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.