A fund created recently to help offset the costs of foster children in care was plugged with $600,000 on Wednesday as commissioners prepare for the new year.
The fund, called Child Emergency, was a special line item approved by the Highland County Board of Commissioners earlier in December for addition to the county’s budget so that money could be transferred to it as needed, commissioner Shane Wilkin said previously.
On Wednesday, Wilkin said the transfer of the $600,000 to the fund was for “in the event we run short next year” on trying to plan ahead.
The increase in costs for foster children has been a growing concern this year as more children are in the system and there aren’t enough homes in the county to house them.
The Times-Gazette previously reported that there were currently more than 140 children in foster care, and only 12 licensed foster homes in Highland County.
Children who cannot be placed in the county have to be placed elsewhere, with some as far away as northern Ohio. Depending on where a child is placed and the specific needs of the child, the average cost per day can be anywhere from $50 to nearly $400, as previously reported.
Last week, commissioners approved the transfer of $825,000 to Children Services to bring the agency “square with the state, and square with child care providers,” Wilkin said at the time. Of that, $681,000 was from unused funds by county offices supported by the general fund that were returned to the county for use on the mounting costs of children in care.
“Considering everything that has happened this year with additional costs, we’re doing good,” Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley said Wednesday. “The department heads came through.”
Commissioner Tom Horst said the county was “fortunate” because the willingness of department heads to part with unused funds budgeted to their offices is not so prevalent in other counties.
And while Highland County may be uncommon in how county offices deal with one another, Wilkin noted that the county is not unique in its situation in growing costs for children in foster care. Every county is facing the rising costs of more children in foster care, due in large part to the widespread drug problem.
Those interested in becoming foster parents can call 937-393-3111, ext. 5055, to contact foster coordinator Jodi Kidder.
Despite the obstacles met throughout the year, Wilkin said commissioners “are looking forward to a positive 2016.”
Wilkin talked about successes of the year with Candle-lite’s announcement of a $12 million expansion and an anticipated addition of 50 jobs over the next three years. Corvac Composites, which is slated to begin production in Greenfield early next year, will bring in 175-200 jobs over the next three years.
“That’s a really big win … for our entire region,” Wilkin said.
Deputy Clerk Nicole Oberrecht, who has worked with commissioners throughout the process of auto-industry supplier Corvac coming to Greenfield, said a recent two-day job fair in Greenfield for the company saw about 460 people come to apply for positions.
It’s been previously reported that Corvac will hire in waves as it ramps up production.
In other business, commissioners on Wednesday approved the transfer of money from county coffers for debt on four sewers. The sewers and the amount to be paid on debt are: Highland-Leesburg, $150,000; Madison Township, $75,000; Rocky Fork Lake, $100,000; and Mowrystown, $10,000.
Also approved was a motion for Weller’s Plumbing and Heating to use a change order if needed to continue with equipment installation and cement work at the Hi-Tech Center that has been hampered by the rains and unseasonably warm weather.
Steve Hunter with Weller’s said Wednesday that heat pumps at the building have been replaced, but the fluid cooler is another matter.
Hunter said it was anticipated that a crane truck would lift the more than 9,000-pound piece of equipment out, but the ground has been too soft to hold such a large truck.
Without being able to remove the old equipment with a crane, that means it will have to be removed in pieces, which will cost about $4,200, he said.
The cement pad the equipment sits on needs to be reworked before the weather turns too cold.
Extending the work schedule wouldn’t work, Hunter said, because by the time March or April comes around there will be the need for air-conditioning at the building, given that there are no windows that open and the addition of what he called “heat gain” from all the computers and other equipment in use inside the building.
The time is now, he said, to get the old fluid cooler out so that cement work can be completed and have time to cure before the cold settles in. And then when the ground hardens with the first “cold snap” Weller’s would be ready to install the new equipment.
As previously reported, the old heating and cooling system in the building has been in place for more than 30 years.
Weller’s work at the Hi-Tech Center is part of a larger improvement project began earlier this year that included parking lot improvements, new windows and replacement of the building’s exterior to address water intrusion issues.
The Highland County Board of Commissioners will hold its annual organizational meeting on Jan. 11 at 8:30 a.m.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.