WILMINGTON — The public hearing at the Clinton County Commissioners’ Administrative Campus Wednesday brought together key stakeholders, including Mary Richards Oakley, the senior planner from the CDC of Ohio Consulting firm, based in Columbus. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss grant applications that the commissioners plan to submit to the state of Ohio next month.
This was the second public hearing for these projects. The first hearing was on April 12.
With grant requests totaling over $1.9 million, the meeting shed light on various projects aimed at improving the infrastructure and community spaces within Clinton County.
One of the programs discussed during the hearing was the Allocation Program, which would grant the county $184,000. The selected projects for this funding include the reconstruction of Main Street in the Village of Port William. The total grant funding allocated to this project amounted to $109,500, with an additional match commitment of $36,367 from the village.
Water Facility Improvements:
Clinton County also pledged assistance to the Village of Blanchester for the replacement of 1,300 linear feet of failing waterline, three fire hydrants, and related valves and appurtenances. The village has been experiencing frequent waterline breaks and service outages along West Fancy and Bourbon streets due to corroded and outdated cast iron pipes. Additionally, the existing fire hydrant has surpassed its useful life and lacks a Storz connection on the pumper nozzle, which modern fire departments now require. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) now mandates a maximum distance of 500 feet between hydrants, and this project will add two new hydrants to ensure compliance.
Flood and Drainage Project:
Another project highlighted was the flood and drainage project, with a budget of $37,700 for the Southeast Neighborhood Park in the city of Wilmington. This initiative served as leverage funding for the neighborhood revitalization grant application in Wilmington. Additionally, the remaining grant funds would be used for administration in fair housing.
Neighborhood Revitalization Program:
The Neighborhood Revitalization Program, requesting $750,000, aimed to benefit the Wilmington Southeast Neighborhood. This comprehensive program encompassed five separate activities, including sidewalk improvements on Grant Street, a crosswalk at Grant Street, street lighting throughout the neighborhood, playground equipment at the Southeast Neighborhood Park, and improvements to community space at the Bible Missionary Baptist Church.
Waterline Improvements and Drainage Projects:
The grant application for the Village of Blanchester sought $500,000 for waterline improvements on West Fancy Street and Bourbon Street. This project aimed to benefit approximately 60 people across 22 households, with 56 percent of the service area classified as low and moderate income. The village committed $45,825 as a matching contribution.
In the village of Sabina, the grant request also amounted to $500,000 and focused on improving storm drainage, including pipe, curbs, gutters, and sidewalks on East Elm Street. This project was set to benefit 650 people, with 54.49 percent of the service area classified as low and moderate income. The village committed $79,730 as a matching contribution.
Pre-Applications and Eligibility:
Prior to applying for competitive programs, the state of Ohio required pre-applications to review basic eligibility. The state approved all three projects discussed at the hearing, allowing full applications to be opened in their grants management portal. Mary Richards Oakley said, ” I have been spending a lot of of time at the office over the past week or so entering data into the state’s system.”
Agreement between the City of Wilmington and Bible Missionary Baptist Church:
A significant discussion during the meeting revolved around an agreement between the City of Wilmington and the Bible Missionary Baptist Church. This agreement aimed to address federal restrictions on providing funds to religious organizations. The church agreed to provide space within its premises as a community center, with certain conditions regarding the use of the dedicated area and limitations on religious instruction. The City of Wilmington would oversee the adherence to the agreement.
If funded, these projects are expected to be completed by August 2025.
Also at the meeting:
Nicole Rodman, Clinton County Jobs and Family Services director, presented her recommendation for a five-year levy that could be included on the November ballot. The primary purpose of this levy would be to ensure sufficient coverage for the costs associated with placements for children in need of care. Additionally, discussions were held on the Kinship Changes program and the challenges faced by the agency due to increased placement rates and limited options. Administrator of JFS, Sarah Smallwood, presented statistical data on child protective supervision and investigations.
“In April, we had 65 children in court ordered protective supervision and 45 new investigations and in May we had 60 children in court ordered protective supervision and 42 new investigations,” said Smallwood.
Coverage for Placements:
Rodman stressed the importance of adequate funding to cover placement costs for children, particularly those in residential or congregate care, or qualified residential treatment programs. These costs ranged from $27 to nearly $434 per day, with placement rates witnessing significant increases. Limited options and competition among 88 counties for these placements sometimes resulted in children being placed three or four hours away, incurring additional costs for staff travel and monthly face-to-face contacts. These factors contribute to the overall financial burden of caring for children in placements.
Kinship Changes Program:
The Kinship Changes program was also discussed, highlighting the requirement for the agency to place a child in foster care for six months while their family undergoes the application process. Following this period, the family becomes eligible for a monthly payment funded by state and federal resources. However, during those initial six months, the agency is responsible for the costs associated with the child’s care. This represents an increase in expenses, but it is necessary to ensure that children are eligible to receive legal custody and the corresponding funding.
Staffing and Mental Health Challenges:
Sarah Smallwood shed light on the staffing shortage within the agency. Rodman emphasized the significance of addressing mental health concerns for both families and the children under their care. The increasing demand for mental health support and the young age of some children involved in the system pose unique challenges that require attention and appropriate resources. “Mental health is a huge, huge issue for not just our families but our kiddos and the needs that they have. Some of them are pretty young that we’re dealing with,” said Rodman.
Recommendations and Responsible Funding:
Based on the discussions, the recommendation put forth was to pursue a five-year levy in November, followed by a thorough assessment of the financial situation over the next 12-18 months to determine the need for a 10-year plan. This approach takes into consideration the agency’s responsibility to manage finances responsibly and ensure that taxpayer funds are utilized effectively to support the needs of the children and families served. The deadline for the levy decision is set for Aug. 2.
Rodman said, “”We always get good support from our community. But my concern is that we need at least one revenue source that would be coming in to support our cost. The purpose is to serve our kids and our families. So I think it’s a responsible choice to do the five year, then reassess what our need is on the 10 year.”
Commissioner Mike McCarty expressed his gratitude and recognition for the agency’s efforts, stating, “You guys have always been great stewards, looking out for the taxpayer and doing some pretty innovative things to try to keep our kids in the county where they need to be and safe.”