Highland County commissioners Jeff Duncan, Terry Britton and Gary Abernathy announced at their Wednesday, June 5 meeting that Turning Point Applied Learning Center will cease operations at the end of June.

Turning Point is “501(c)3 nonprofit organization designed to aid in the training of unemployed, underemployed and hard-to-employ citizens of Highland, Adams and Pike counties,” according to their Highland County Chamber of Commerce page. Turning Point has been providing employment training and supportive services to residents of the Highland County region for 21 years and granting opportunities for ex-offenders to turn their lives around through recovery programs and job training.

Administrative and Reentry Services Director Shawn M. Gall told commissioners, in an email dated May 31, that the organization’s board of directors has voted to “cease all operations effective June 28.”

“This change is a result of changing priorities in various grant funding sources,” Gall wrote.

LuAnn Winkle, executive director of Turning Point Applied Learning Center, also led the 18-month grant application process for an $843,498 U.S. Department of Justice grant for the Rocky Fork Lake region, which commissioners announced in October 2016. Commissioners later voted in December 2018 to withdraw from the grant. Abernathy spoke about Turning Point’s role with the grant during that meeting last December.

“We won the $843,000 grant, and as soon as they awarded it, they said ‘Turning Point can’t be doing this, and we can’t have a land bank as part of your proposal,’ even though these things were all very clearly spelled out,” Abernathy said. “And frankly, the minute they said that Turning Point couldn’t do this is when this thing started to go south in a big way.”

Gall told commissioners that Turning Point will “be in touch with you in the coming weeks to verify completion of any role Turning Point had in the RFL-ASAP Grant.”

Commissioners said during their meeting that the announcement was “unfortunate.”

“It’s unfortunate,” Abernathy said. “They’ve done a lot of good work over the years with rehabilitation and re-entry issues.

“It sounds like the grants that generally funded them were not as easy to come by, or to win, as they once were.”

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Also during their meeting Wednesday, commissioners met with John Zaegel, senior energy consultant with Muirfield Energy, to discuss the county’s contract with the energy broker.

Zaegel said that the county has been contracting with the company for “just under” nine years and that initially, the county only had about three utility options – AEP, Champion Energy and First Energy.

“Now, there are quite a few more options, and therefore there’s more competition to push the prices down again, which is a good thing for you,” Zaegel told commissioners.

Zaegel said that the county is currently paying approximately 5.551 cents per kilowatt hour through ENGIE Insight and using approximately 2,221,000 kilowatt hours.

“At this point, we’ve worked with a number of suppliers and are still waiting on a number of additional quotes, but we can get you down to the 4.5 [cent] range on a one-, two- or possibly three-year agreement,” Zaegel said.

Although Zaegel said that Muirfield anticipates a few more quotes, Freeport Energy has been offering the lowest rates for most of their recent contracts, he said.

Commissioners did not take any action Wednesday, as they said they would be working to verify the county’s number of accounts and their usage as outlined in Zaegel’s proposal.

“We’ll get verification of some of these addresses, make that list more current and we’ll revisit this at another meeting after we get that all done,” Duncan said.

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A second public hearing for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding was conducted Wednesday morning by commission clerk Nicole Oberrecht, although no members of the public attended the meeting. As previously reported, Oberrecht hosted a first hearing April 24, in which she discussed applications for Critical Infrastructure Program (CIP) funding.

Oberrecht updated commissioners on the county’s lone first-round applicant for the CIP funding, from the Village of Leesburg.

“It is proposed to be a flood and drainage project on East Main, so state Route 28,” Oberrecht said. “We’re going to ask for $351,734.40 in CDBG funding, and then the Village of Leesburg is also leveraging toward the project $57,100.”

According to Oberrecht, the proposal outlines plans to fix “failing infrastructure” around a culvert, including to repair sidewalks, wingwalls, headwalls and retaining walls; “to install and replace some catch basins in the area” and to install drainage and piping; and to replace a guard rail with pedestrian fencing.

“It’s due this Friday,” Oberrecht told commissioners. “Then it will go up to Columbus, and it will be ranked with all of the other projects that have been turned in for round funding from around the state.”

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Commissioners also met Wednesday with Chad Abbott of Chad Abbott Signs, who presented options for a new signal at the Hi-TEC Center. No action was taken on the proposal.

In other discussion, Britton reported that plans to remove a dead tree in front of the courthouse are currently on hold until the county determines whether it will impact a fountain on the courthouse square that has been planned for about five years.

Abernathy announced that the county successfully “backed up the emergency phone system we’ve been using in favor of a microwave system,” which will save the county approximately $3,000 per month. The savings “will allow us to address Sheriff Barrera’s desire for a body scanner” at the Highland County Justice Center, Abernathy said.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners approved the following resolutions, each by a 3-0 vote:

• A request from Probation for a modification within the T-20 Pretrial Supervision budget in the amount of $10,000 to Advances Out and an advance from T-20, Advances Out to S-18, Probation in the amount of $10,000 to repay an earlier advance.

• A request from Probation to establish a new fund T-27 Jail Diversion Program FY20 and appropriate $17,000.

• A request from Probation to establish a new fund T-28 Prosecutorial Diversion FY20 and appropriate $4,000.

• A request from Probation to establish a new fund T-29, FY20 Pretrial Supervision and appropriate $8,000.

• A request from Probation to establish a new fund T-30 PSI, FY20 and appropriate $13,032.

• A request from Probation to establish a new fund T-31 JRIG, FY20 and appropriate $15,000.

• A request from Probation for a modification within S-18 Community Probation Department SRVC in the amount of $17,000 and the following advance from S-18 Advances Out to T-27 in the amount of $17,000.

• A request from Probation for a modification within S-18 Community Probation Department SRVC as follows in the amount of $4,000 and the following advance from S-18 Advances Out to T-28 in the amount of $4,000.

• A request from Probation for a modification within S-18 Community Probation Department SRVC in the amount of $8,000 and the following advance from S-18 Advances Out to T-29 in the amount of $8,000.

• A request from Probation for a modification within S-18 Community Probation Department SRVC in the amount of $15,000 and the following advance from S-18 Advances Out to T-31 in the amount of $15,000.

• A resolution to authorize waiving a monthly sewer fee for the following property, 7063 Forest Cove, effective June 1, 2019.

Abernathy said the reason for all of the Probation Department-related resolutions is that they are nearing the end of their fiscal year.

“That’s typical, for the end of the year,” Duncan said.

Commissioners also approved the following resolutions, each by a 3-0 vote:

• Commissioners, Job and Family Services and COA – Community Case Management – Purchased Service Contract.

• Commissioners, Job and Family Services and COA – Reproductive Health and Wellness Program – Purchased Service Contract.

• Commissioners, Job and Family Services and COA – Safe Housing Services – Purchased Service Contract.

• Commissioners, Job and Family Services and COA – Job Club/Job Search – Purchased Service Contract.

• Commissioners, Canon Lease Agreement.

• American Court Services – Memorandum of Understanding (for the Probation Department).

• A subordination agreement – Highland County Commissioners and Angela K. Ellis.

• Commissioners and Nicklas Lafferty – Home Investment Partnership Program.

Duncan said that most of the contracts are “annual ones that we usually do.”

Commissioners voted 3-0 to authorize the president to execute an annual permit for the Ohio Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Release Compensation Board, which affects the fuel tanks at the county airport.