Due to a bid opening set for next Wednesday, Highland County Board of Commissioners President Jeff Duncan announced that the meeting will be held in the large basement meeting room of the Highland County Administration Building.
The usual commissioners meeting Wednesday was anything but usual, with their second-floor chambers reflecting current health recommendations of six-feet social distancing and not having more than 10 people in a confined room.
Chairs that were normally in neat rows for spectators were stacked along a wall, with only four chairs available that were six feet apart.
“Because of the constraints of trying to keep our distance, we’ll meet downstairs in the large meeting room next week,” Duncan said. “We’ve got people coming in to submit contracts, along with the county engineer, and that will allow us to keep up with the social distancing.”
Duncan emphasized that meetings are still open to the public despite restrictions imposed by both state and federal officials regarding avoiding large gatherings.
Commissioner Gary Abernathy said the new meeting venue may be in place for “the foreseeable future, until all of this passes.”
Duncan said it would be no problem utilizing the basement meeting room since all private reservations have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Abernathy lauded Duncan for being at the daily 8 a.m. Emergency Operations Center briefings in addition to the 10 a.m. conference call with local mayors and township trustees to insure communication lines remain open between county and municipal officials.
“I want to thank the individuals who are working behind the scenes,” Duncan said. “Unless you’re directly involved, you don’t grasp how much work is being put into the plans for what they say is still coming, and these folks are putting in countless hours.”
In other matters, new policy changes were adopted to keep Highland County in line with temporary state and County Risk Sharing Authority (CORSA) modifications to the Family Medical Leave Act in light of the current pandemic.
“We’ll be sending this out to the department heads that have folks working from home, or that can’t come to work for one reason or another,” Duncan said.
The policy changes would go into effect Wednesday, with commissioner Gary Abernathy adding that it would make COVID-19 a qualifying reason that time could be taken off for personal use or in caring for a family member, and would also extend the amount of time that could be used.
According to the labor department, FMLA allows a family member to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave annually, while their group health benefits are maintained during the leave.
The modifications approved by commissioners Wednesday include conditions on length of leave time and rates of compensation for full- and part-time county employees in compliance with the 2020 Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which allows employees to use its benefits through the end of the year.
The Rolling Acres sewer system is still experiencing line troubles, an issue that commissioner Terry Britton said “we’ve been fighting for a few years now.”
He said a repair grant was submitted through the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission and that funds would not be forthcoming, but nonetheless the repairs had to be effected.
An estimate of between $6 to $10 thousand had been received to initiate repair work on the line which serves residents on Mad River Road, Britton said.
A back-up electrical generator at the Highland County Justice Center experiencing what was described as “radiator issues” was discussed for repair or replacement.
Quad County Service and Repair indicated that replacement of the unit would cost nearly $7,000, with the cost of repairs amounting to $5,214.
Commissioners moved to authorize the company to repair the unit, which he said would save the county more than $1,700.
Also Wednesday, four resolutions were approved along with two contracts, and an extension date of June 1 was approved for a recycling grant in Highland County.
In a bid to have some “good news” to offset coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, commissioners extended congratulations to Bright Elementary student Meghan Thompson for winning a billboard design contest on recycling and litter prevention.
The creative billboard design contest was conducted under the auspices of the RPHF Solid Waste District in conjunction with the observance of Earth Day on April 22, and Thompson’s creation is visible at the intersection of SR 28 and SR 138 just east of Greenfield.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.