Highland County commissioners Jeff Duncan, Gary Abernathy and Terry Britton signed a letter of protest Wednesday directed to Gov. Mike DeWine, encouraging his administration to move faster in reopening Ohio’s economy and “trusting the judgment of our local businesses and citizens.”
“We feel like it’s a county by county situation,” Duncan said. “We haven’t been affected to the extent here in Highland County that other counties have been.”
The commissioners joined the ranks of others across the Buckeye State expressing disapproval of the methodology in what is now called the “stay safe order,” noting in their letter the perception of unfairness of allowing large national outlets to remain open during the pandemic, while at the same time forcing “other manufacturers and small locally-owned stores” to close.
“In communities like Hillsboro, Greenfield, Lynchburg, Leesburg, Mowrystown and other locations around our county, the usual number of patrons in our small businesses never posed a health hazard,” the letter stated, “especially considering that people have never been prohibited from congregating and standing together in the large, national stores mentioned above.”
The letter was forwarded to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, state Rep. Shane Wilkin and state Sen. Bob Peterson.
“It seems like the process they’ve been using is picking winners and losers, and we’re not sure about the fairness of that,” Duncan said.
Due to the pandemic, ongoing discussions are underway in some counties as to whether or not to proceed with plans for county fairs. Duncan said he met with Highland County Fair Board President Mark Baldwin, who indicated plans were still on track for the 2020 Highland County Fair in September.
In a recent news release, Adams County Fair Board President Terri Davis said a decision on whether or not its fair would be held hadn’t yet been made, though it’s scheduled for the week of July 12.
Both the Clinton County and Fayette County fairs have mid-July start dates.
The county fair season is tentatively set to begin on June 13 with the opening of the Paulding County Fair.
Meeting room restrictions are still in place in the Highland County Administration Building to remain in compliance with current restrictions that prohibit large gatherings in one place, and Duncan said the rooms would be made available for use by the Highland County Common Pleas Court.
“Judge Coss and his court will possibly be using this room in particular because they can spread out a little more,” Duncan said. “They might be using it for grand jury selection and things like that, and that’ll be coming up in June.”
In other matters, two sealed bids were opened for construction work on the East Shore pump station and force main in the Rocky Fork Lake area.
Unger Construction submitted a total bid of $259,347 while Queen City Mechanical Inc. placed a bid for $319,000.
Both proposals were given to Steve Canter of Environmental Engineering Services for his review and consideration.
Also Wednesday, commissioners approved a trio of resolutions, two of which were budget transfers with the other awarding the 2020 Highland County Chip Seal Program bid to the Miller-Mason Paving Co. in the amount of $620,100.
Three contracts were accepted as submitted Wednesday.
One contract was between the county engineer and the Palmer Engineering Co. for bridge inspection and load ratings on Sicily Road; another was authorization to change the prices charged for meals at the Highland County Justice Center between the sheriff’s office and Aramark Food Services, and the final contract was with Brown County Asphalt, Inc. in connection with a road resurfacing project that will commence on Storer Lane.
Following, in its entirety, is the letter that was drafted by the commissioners and sent to Gov. Mike DeWine Wednesday.
Dear Governor DeWine,
We are writing to encourage you to hasten the reopening of Ohio to achieve business as usual, particularly in counties like ours where the manufacturing shutdowns and business closings were largely unnecessary from the beginning. Most concerning has been the level of unfairness between the treatment of large nationally-owned stores such as Walmart, Kroger, Lowe’s and Rural King compared to smaller local stores that deal in similar lines of merchandise. For some reason, the national stores and some manufacturers were allowed to remain open, while other manufacturers and small locally-owned stores were forced to close.
We were eagerly anticipating the arrival of May 1, which you had decreed as a target date to reopen most of the state. Unfortunately, that date was extended to May 29 (you changed the name from “stay at home” to “stay safe” for some reason), and we must stringently protest the notion that many of our smallest and most vulnerable businesses that built this county must remain closed.
In communities like Hillsboro, Greenfield, Lynchburg, Leesburg, Mowrystown and other locations around our county, the usual number of patrons in our small businesses never posed a health hazard — especially considering that people have never been prohibited from congregating and standing together in the large, national stores mentioned above.
We are urging you to begin trusting the judgment of our local business owners and citizens. They are adults who understand how to practice good hygiene and keep themselves and others healthy. This country was built on constitutional rights for the people of the United States. We hope to get back to those rights. It is time to open Ohio.
Jeff Duncan, president
cc: U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, House Speaker Larry Householder, State Sen. Bob Peterson, State Rep. Shane Wilkin.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.