The Southwest District director from the office of Ohio Senator Rob Portman met Wednesday with the Highland County Board of Commissioners to share both her concerns and to hear local government progress on securing American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) funds.
Nan Cahall told David Daniels, Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton that Portman was focused on three main concerns from the nation’s capital:
• Infrastructure spending — She said that Portman had been a leader in attempting to corral a bipartisan compromise concerning funding for the nation’s infrastructure. Despite being unable to come together on election reform legislation, she said Portman was optimistic that some type of measure could be passed that focused on “core infrastructure” needs, which were described as roads, bridges, railroads, airports, waterways, sea ports and energy infrastructure, without having to raise taxes. Citing the region’s dependence on agriculture, Daniels requested that locks and dams on the Ohio River be added to any infrastructure spending bill.
• Concerns over a massive tax hike — Cahall said that Portman was very much against the White House’s proposed $6 trillion in social program spending. She said he felt that it would be American workers who would bear the brunt of the tax increases, and that American businesses would face the highest taxes of any of the world’s most developed economies. Portman continues to support the pro-growth and tax cut policies implemented in 2017, she added.
• Election reform legislation — Cahall said Tuesday’s vote failed to advance the legislation, and that Portman would continue to speak in opposition to federalizing the election process. Taking away local control of state and local elections was, in Portman’s words, “not a good thing.”
In seeking local government input concerning CARES Act and ARP Act money, Duncan told Cahall the CARES Act funds the county received last year were for the most part spent, but that there seemed to be no clear direction or guidance as to how the county could secure the second round of stimulus money.
“We were hoping to use some of that money for infrastructure, and we can somewhat, but not to the degree that we were hoping,” Duncan said.
He said the application process for the second round of spending was cumbersome, describing that Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley spent numerous days sorting through paperwork in trying to secure the funds for the county.
“I’m verified, we’re just not registered yet,” Fawley said, adding that in the verification process, the government required his personal Social Security number, driver’s license and W-2 forms. “Somewhere along the line I got a sheet of paper that was supposed to have a code on it for me to register, but there was no number, so we’re dealing with that now.”
Daniels said the frustrating thing about the ARP money was the restrictions put upon it.
“We could actually be doing something with that money that would put people to work,” he said. “We have facilities and infrastructure within county government that needs taken care of, and we would be putting those people and businesses together at work helping them recover, but those are areas we seem to be blocked out of.”
Britton said ARP funding seemed to be “saddled to water and sewer,” and though acknowledging those concerns did exist in Highland County, he said it would be more useful if the government would allow expansion of the program to include things like broadband internet or building repair.
“If they were more flexible as to what that money could be spent on, we could put more people to work and get important things done,” he said.
In other matters, Daniels said that since the new county sewer use ordinance was passed, several problems and issues had been identified in the Rocky Fork Lake region.
“If there are people who are illegally hooked into the sewer, or have issues related to the sewer, they should contact the sewer office or the county commissioners office to resolve those issues,” he advised.
Also Wednesday, three line item budget transfer resolutions were approved, in addition to four contracts.
Commissioners entered into a contract with Highland County Community Action Organization (HCCAO) and Workforce Services Unlimited, Inc. concerning its youth program.
Three other contracts related to the 2021 Recycling and Litter Management Grant were entered into with Highland County Recycling and the villages of Highland and Leesburg, and Hillsboro City Schools.
Commission president Duncan accepted re-appointment to the HCCAO Board of Directors.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.