Aspects of alternative energy and the alternative energy process were discussed, among other topics, at Wednesday’s meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners.
Tony Zartman, director of programs and operation for the Land and Liberty Coalition, said he’s been through the process of renewable energy developers multiple times as a county commissioner for Paulding County for 12 years, which was why the organization asked him to join. He said the organization felt it would be a good idea for him to talk to various commissioners and educate them on the process.
Highland County commissioner Dave Daniels said the board has created a set of guidelines that landowners, developers and anyone else involved could follow. He said the county is given the ability to say no to a project, but then they talk to the landowner who has a right to do what they want with their land and enter into lease agreements, and it becomes an issue.
Zartman said that is one of the problems on the developer side because in most counties they’ve already invested the time and money to get the lease agreements before the project ever gets in front of a board of commissioners for approval or denial.
Commissioner Terry Britton said that a part the board of commissioners were stressing when making their resolution for Senate Bill 52 was looking at both sides of the aisle in terms of the landowners and the neighbors that would be living next to an alternative energy facility.
Britton also said the commissioners tried to put the radical rationale into perspective going into the future.
“I think I’ve stated this before, but there’s two sides to every story, and there’s land rights and there’s all of these different obstacles that we’re trying to deal with, but I truly believe that land rights kind of somewhat outweighs some of the other complaints that we get,” he said.
Daniels said when putting together the resolution, the commissioners included some setback requirements as well. He said the non-participating property owners probably don’t see them as adequate, but he also said the board tried to recognize that those people don’t want a facility right next to their property. He also said they put in a percentage covered in a township stipulation, specifically that a project couldn’t put more than 8 percent of the total landmass of a township behind the fence in a solar project.
In other news, Commissioner Jeff Duncan said he mentioned at the last meeting that the board was looking into doing repair work on the old jail. He said that one of the chimneys there has some issues that need to be addressed. Duncan said Wayne Dance, a mason the county is working with on the project, suggested they might need to remove or lower the chimney in question to match the other chimneys. Duncan said the chimney with the issue is the tallest one and the issue is at its top.
Duncan said because of how tall the chimney is, the work will require scaffolding to be built around the project. He said Dance submitted an estimate of $33,000, with $9,369 of that being for the scaffolding. Duncan said the scaffolding rental was for 28 days.
Mark Current, the Highland County Community Action Organization housing director, also attended the meeting for the second public hearing for the Community Housing Impact Preservation (CHIP) Program. Current said a requirement to apply for the grant program is that there must be two public hearings, with this one being the second of those.
Current said that according to the prior census, there are 19,333 houses in Highland County, with 70.1 percent of those being owner-occupied. He said the median selected monthly owner costs with a mortgage was $1,062, the monthly average income for the county residents was $47,973, and that 14.9 percent of the county lives in poverty. He said that 14.9 percent totaled about 6,459 people.
Current said that considering the statistics, a lot of people are living at an income level where they can’t afford to upkeep their houses. He said this is the argument for the CHIP Program continuing in the county.
He also said the application for the program is due on June 22, and the award would most likely come in around October or November because it’s a very competitive grant and they have a lot to go through.
In other news, Mary Remsing, the Community Development Block Grant project lead, also had her second public hearing during the meeting. Remsing said she’s already started the application process within the Ohio Community and Energy Assistance Network (OCEAN), a system within the Ohio Department of Development. She said she plans to submit the application this week and hear something back in late August or September.
In other news, there were five resolutions approved by the board of commissioners:
* Res. No. 22-94 is an awarding of the Buford School Demolition Project bid to Alpha Construction in the amount of $90,331.
* Res. No. 22-95 is an authorization for Duncan, the board president, to sign all documents necessary and incidental to the conveyance of the lot for the records storage center.
* Res. No. 22-96 is an authorization for $8,663 as participating local funds for the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission for the fiscal year beginning on Jan. 1, 2023.
* Res. No. 22-97 is an authorization for a transfer from the Child Support Enforcement Fund to Public Assistance in the amount of $10,634 for April 2022 Child Support shared cost distribution.
* Res. No. 22-98 is a request for an additional appropriation from unanticipated revenue to Capital Improvement General in the amount of $271,000.
There were also two contracts approved by the board of commissioners:
* Contract 38 is between the board of commissioners and Highland County Board of Development Disabilities for a provision of Help Me Grow Service Coordinator.
* Contract 39 is between the board of commissioners and McCarty Associates for engineering and architecture design services for a new records storage building on Beech Street in Hillsboro.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.