Highland County commissioners Jeff Duncan, Terry Britton and Gary Abernathy discussed planned improvements to various areas of the county as well as an idea for a new countywide foundation during a brief meeting Wednesday morning, Oct. 9.

Britton updated commissioners on planned improvements at Rocky Fork Lake. Commissioners announced in April that the county received a $50,000 grant for the project, as they initially applied to help make improvements at the lake due to the Smokin’ in the Hills event hosted there. During the April 24 commissioners meeting, Duncan said they would be meeting to discuss where, specifically, the grant money could be used.

On Wednesday morning, Britton said there are “13 spots at the campground that don’t have any power, any water or any sewer” that the county is looking to upgrade. He said the county is “getting really close” to starting the project.

“We’ve finally got some of the bids back and sketches,” Britton said. “That’s to improve those camp spots for use year-round.

“It was originally to help the Smokin’ in the Hills project, but this will be an economic driver for that area year-round. We will be submitting that in the next few weeks to hopefully get that approved where we can get started.”

• • •

Abernathy reported on his recent meetings with the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio. According to their website, the organization “is a regional community foundation serving Appalachian Ohio’s 32 counties with the mission to create opportunities for Appalachian Ohio’s citizens and communities by inspiring and supporting philanthropy.”

“They’ve never really done anything in Highland County and wanted us to know there are actually funds available here,” Abernathy said. “Right now, there’s about $10,000 that we could identify a project and use it for and about$50,000 if we have matching funds.

“This is part of the state’s budget that funds this foundation.”

The organization’s website also says that the “FAO serves the Appalachian Ohio region while also helping local communities without their own foundation grow local resources [and] partner with communities to create local foundations that benefit from FAO’s support in fundraising, training and communications as well as through management of the fund’s administration and investments.”

Abernathy said that he is interested in working to establish a community foundation for Highland County and invited anyone interested in serving on the board to contact the commissioners’ office.

“I am going to try to put together a Highland County foundation that would review projects,” Abernathy said. “They usually do funding anywhere in the amount of like $1,000 to $5,000 for various projects. A lot of it’s for historic preservation-type things. They’ve done things like helping fund students to take field trips. There’s a wide variety of things that it can be used for, usually things other types of grants aren’t available for.”

Abernathy compared the planned foundation to being “along the lines of the hospital foundation — in terms of getting folks locally to donate money to the foundation, which that money then can be used to leverage more money from the Appalachian group and fill a lot of gaps.”

• • •

Before voting Wednesday morning to approve a contract for the engineer’s office with Smith Construction for a slide repair project on Sinking Spring Road, Duncan discussed an emergency meeting that commissioners held Oct. 3.

As previously reported, a bid opening for the project was held during the commissioners’ meeting Oct. 2. At Highland County engineer Chris Fauber’s request, commissioners recessed to allow the engineer’s office time to review the three bids the county received. Commissioners resumed open session Wednesday morning to make a motion to accept the bid from Smith Construction.

“We realized we also needed a resolution, so that’s why we came back into session to have that resolution [Thursday],” Duncan said. “The engineer’s trying to expedite that because of the concerns for trying to get that roadwork accomplished before bad weather. We’re trying to hustle that through so they can get started on that project.”

• • •

Duncan also told commissioners that the county may be getting assistance from the city of Hillsboro to fix an “issue” near the county administration building.

“The storm gutters empty into the street, which is not an issue in the summertime but in the wintertime creates an ice floe,” Duncan said. “I have had contact with a contractor in taking a look at that and how we might alleviate that situation in the future.

“I also reached out earlier in the week to [Hillsboro] safety and service director [Dick] Donley, and the city’s going to take a look at it to see how we might work together to resolve that problem.”

• • •

In other discussion:

• Abernathy and Duncan noted that Adient in Greenfield will be hosting a ribbon-cutting Oct. 15 with an open house for employees Oct. 26.

• Duncan said he would be attending the Highland Soil and Water Conservation District’s annual meeting Oct. 10.

• Britton said the first-round Ohio Public Works Commission grant application reviews are also Oct. 10.

• Commissioners discussed Abernathy’s announcement Oct. 8 that he would not be seeking re-election in 2020.

“We want to wish you well in your endeavors,” Duncan told Abernathy. “We were getting along very well. I appreciate your help, and you’ll continue to be here another year.”

Abernathy thanked Duncan. “I really have enjoyed working with you and Terry and our clerks, and really, everyone in the county,” he said.

• • •

In other action, commissioners approved the following resolutions, each by a 3-0 vote:

• A resolution to approve the re-appointment of Elizabeth Fryman to the Board of DD for the Jan. 1, 2020-Dec. 31, 2023 term.

• A request from the Auditor for an additional appropriation to County Misc. – Workers’ Comp in the amount of $86,738.08.

• A modification within TEC from Contracts-Repairs to Supplies in the amount of $1,500.

• A request from Family & Children First for an additional appropriation to S-24 in the amount of $442.

• A modification within County from Transfers Out to Sheriff, Insurance/Opt-Out Benefits in the amount of $4,000.

• A request from the Engineer for a modification within K-00 in the amount of $135,000.

• A request from the Engineer for an additional appropriation to K-00 in the amount of $100,000.

In addition to the contract for the engineer’s office, commissioners also approved a contract for the Highland County Job & Family Services Prevention, Retention & Contingency (PRC) Plan as amended Oct. 1.