Pictured are Highland County Commissioners David Daniels, left, and Terry Britton. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Pictured are Highland County Commissioners David Daniels, left, and Terry Britton. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
A Marriott Hotel first proposed in the city of Hillsboro in 2019 is one step closer to construction, as Highland County Economic Development Director Julie Bolender announced Wednesday that the county has been awarded a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant that will, in turn, be loaned to developers.

Bolender made the announcement to commissioners Terry Britton and David Daniels at their Wednesday, July 27 meeting. (Commission president Jeff Duncan was absent.)

“Highland County has received a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $500,000,” Bolender told commissioners. “We will be utilizing that to provide a loan to the Leo Capital Group for the construction of the hotel.”

In addition to the $500,000 grant from the state Department of Development, Britton said the county has earmarked another $500,000 out of the Revolving Loan Fund for a total $1 million loan to Leo Capital.

“It's been a journey, for sure, for this,” Britton said. “It's exciting. Finally, things are starting to move. It took a while for everybody to get everything, all the information sent in to the state that needed to be sent in.”

As previously reported, Bolender told The Highland County Press in March that a grant application has been submitted to the Ohio Department of Development. She said the initial grant was resubmitted after additional information was requested by the state.

At the Feb. 17, 2021 commission meeting, Tracy Boler presented an amended economic development application on behalf of Leo Capital Investments LLC and Nick Patel and Ankur Patel, prospective hotel developers.

During that meeting, Boler told commissioners that the developers said the revolving loan application is “the last of the holdup before we can break ground” on the project. Britton said a previous submission “wasn’t giving us the right information to send to the state.” At city council's March 17 meeting, Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott also said the Marriott Hotel was pending “the final piece of funding” from the state.

“It's been a process,” Bolender said. “It’s exciting to be able to move forward.”

Plans for the development near the intersection of state Route 73 and Harry Sauner Road have been discussed in Hillsboro City Council meetings since 2019. The City of Hillsboro has already approved several resolutions regarding the project, including zoning changes, and both Hillsboro City Council and the Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education previously approved the establishment of a tax increment financing district for the proposed multimillion-dollar hotel and restaurant site.

Bolender said that they are currently seeking bids for the environmental review for the site, with a deadline of Aug. 4, before construction can begin.

“We will open those sealed bids and award the work for the environmental review,” Bolender said. “Once that's done, then we can move forward on to the next step of the construction of the hotel.”

In addition to discussing the hotel project, Bolender also briefly updated commissioners on the new county workforce development center in Greenfield.

As previously reported, Bolender and other local partners announced plans for the “county’s first-ever brick and mortar workforce development center” at the Jefferson Street Business Center in Greenfield during the Nov. 10 county commission meeting. The goal for this new center, according to Bolender, is to help everyone from students to area residents looking for work to current employees who need continuing education or training.

As of Wednesday, Bolender said they are almost ready to open.

“We are very close to opening; however, we do have an issue with our HVAC system,” Bolender said. “We’re waiting on a part for that, and as soon as we receive that, then we will be able to do the walkthrough, receive our certificate of occupancy and open the doors to some education and training for the people of Highland County.”

(For more on the center, see the story at: https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/-Investing-in-a-greater-tomorrow-Plans-announced-for-new-workforce-development-center-in-Greenfield/2/20/73832.)

In other discussion:

• Britton reported that the county is obtaining quotes to replace the grease trap in the kitchen at the Highland County Justice Center. After ongoing issues, he said it has to be replaced.

“It's been a problem for a while, and we've been limping along, but it's gotten to the point now where we're going to have to replace it,” Britton said. “It’s going to be a pretty costly replacement because it's in the floor.”

Britton added that another issue the county will face is preparing meals for the inmates while work is being done on the grease trap.

“It’s probably going to interrupt the kitchen out there, as far as the meals,” Britton said. “Donnie [Barrera, county sheriff] will have to make some arrangements on feeding the prisoners if they do shut that down.”

No action has been taken yet, as commissioners are still awaiting “one or two” quotes, according to Britton.

“It’s probably going to be around the $20,000 range to fix this problem that we've got out there,” he said.

• Daniels said that “site prep” is being done at location of the new 6,000 square foot county animal shelter, as commissioners said contractors broke ground on the project July 20.

“They’re waiting on the next phase,” Daniels said.

• Daniels reminded the community of Rumble in the Hills at Rocky Fork Lake July 30-31 and encouraged them to support that event.

Both commissioners also noted that the Ohio State Fair began Wednesday, July 27.

“We've got an awful lot of young 4-H exhibitors in Highland County that are competing on the state level to take their projects up there, and we want to wish them all well,” Daniels said. “It's kind of a big deal to get an opportunity to show at the State Fair and be a part of that, and we want to wish all the Highland County residents and all the kids participating in 4-H and FFA well as they share their projects and take part in that great program.”

Britton added that the Ohio State Fair “always has a big presence from Highland County.”

“That says a lot to the programs that we’ve got going on here in Highland County for those kids,” Britton said.

In other action, commissioners approved the following resolutions, each by a 2-0 vote:

• Commissioners received a petition filed by Paint Township Trustees to vacate Lake View Road. Via resolution, the commission agreed to set the time and date for a public viewing to be held Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 10 a.m. and a public hearing Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 11 a.m. in the Highland County Commissioners Office.

• A resolution to establish a new fund within Board of Elections Security HAVA Grant 2022 Fund. Also requested is a new line item, Security Expenses, and an additional appropriation of $10,000.

• A resolution to authorize the establishment of new line items within 2022 Primary Grant Fund as follows; Full Time Salary, Part Time Salary, Medicare and OPERS.

• An additional appropriation within the Board of Elections budget in the amount of $4,950.13.

• A budget modification from Commissioners Other Expense Misc. to Commissioners Motor Vehicle in the amount of $14,799.

• A budget modification from Commissioners Other Expense Misc. to Commissioners Advertising and Printing in the amount of $5,000.

• An additional appropriation from unappropriated funds to Spay and Neuter Other Expense in the amount of $500.

Also approved were:

• A contract with the Ohio Department of Development: PY 2021 Economic Development Program, State of Ohio CDBG Program Grant Agreement.

• A letter of support for Highland District Hospital for a Nursing and Neurology Equipment Grant. Britton said this is a revision to a previous letter of support, as the “scope of the grant changed due to” the hospital eliminating OB/GYN services.

• A change order for the Highland County Engineer and Miller-Mason Paving for an intersection improvement at Careytown and Roundhead roads.

• A CCAOSC Consult Letter to Palmer Energy. Daniels said this letter “allows them to access our information” on energy rates.

• • •

At 10 a.m., commissioners entered an executive session with attorney Brett Geary of Clemans, Nelson and Associates. No action was taken.

Commissioners were also slated to host the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission second-round caucus meeting at 1 p.m. in their office.