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County panel ponders fee hike

Seneca Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Charlene Watkins said she attended the meeting to discuss her plan with commissioners, all of whom sit on the regional planning board.

She said she was trying to attain funding from several governmental entities in the county to update the county's land use plan.

She said the plan, which would be bid out to an outside consultant, would designate areas for manufacturing and industry, agriculture, community services and transportation.

Watkins said the plan would be implemented by a committee of constituents.

She said funding is needed to pay a consultant to do research to complete the plan, which she said could take about a year.

Watkins said she thought the plan would be beneficial.

"We are able to designate new manufacturing and industrial areas when needed and we can find where new county services are needed," she said. "It also can help protect agricultural areas. It is multiple voices throughout the county deciding how we want the land to be used."

Watkins said the plan is subject to change.

"It is fluid," she said. "It's a strategic plan that says how we'd like to see the land used."

Seneca County Board of Commissioners President Holly Stacy said the plan makes sense because it would provide a blueprint, making things easier for government entities.

"From a county perspective, it's hard to be progressive if we don't know what we have and where," she said. "This plan does that for us."

Stacy said the county pays a 50-cents-per-resident assessment to fund Regional Planning and other county entities pay the same rate.

She said Watkins was prepared to ask for an increase to 75 cents to help fund a comprehensive county land use study.

The increase would generate an additional $28,372.50 for the commission, raising its assessment funding from $56,745 to $85,117.50.

Watkins estimated the cost of developing the land use plan at $100,000-$130,000.

Kerschner said he was concerned about aspects of the project's funding.

Watkins, who hopes to have funds in place by August 2017, said she would not move forward without a concrete funding plan.

"Then we can send out a request for proposals," she said.

Watkins said the plan could be finalized in 2018.

Seneca County Administrator Stacy Wilson said Regional Planning might have carryover funds to contribute to the project and Watkins said she was in search of grants to help pay for the plan.

Kerschner said a 25-cent increase doesn't sound like much, but he said it was a significant investment that would need to be carefully considered.

"That's a 50-percent increase in funding," he said.

Watkins said she had been in conversations with the city of Tiffin and township trustees to try to get them to agree to the increase.

"Some have been for it and several have been against it," she said.

Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz pledged his support to the increase last month.

"I'm fully supportive of it," he said.

Kerschner said he hoped to learn more about project financials.

"A land use plan is necessary," he said. "But, from a numbers standpoint, (the increase) would only raise about $28,000. That is still a far cry from $100,000 or $130,000."

He said he did not want to increase funding for Regional Planning without a high degree of certainty the land use project would be completed in a timely manner.

Stacy said the issue would be discussed again at Tuesday's commissioners meeting before a Regional Planning meeting 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the basement conference room of the RTA building.

"We have to decide if this is a one-time increase," she said. "Or is this a permanent raised assessment."

Watkins said she hoped commissioners would consider a permanent increase to the assessment.

"I'm not sure this board would vote for a permanent increase," Kerschner said.

In another matter, Wilson said Seneca County Sheriff's Office received a grant to establish the selective traffic enforcement program and the impaired driving enforcement program and commissioners voted to approve both programs.

In other business, the board approved:

A $1,071.36 appropriation adjustment within the Sheriff Community Corrections Grant Fund.

A $4,000 supplemental appropriation to the Delinquent Care and Custody Grant Fund.

A $508.88 fund transfer to the S/O Step Fund.

Authorizing Stacy to sign the Community Development Block Grant housing/home program income account reports, revolving loan fund reports and all other necessary documents.

Authorizing a contract with West Publishing Corp. on behalf of Seneca County Department of Job and Family Services and authorizing Stacy to sign any documents in relation to the contract.

Bill vouchers.

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