By RON CRAIG
Seneca County Commissioners on Thursday voted to declared an emergency at the county jail — well, as a formality, anyway.
In their meeting agenda emailed Wednesday, the request to declare the emergency was not explained, leading some area residents and officials, even the sheriff himself, to wonder what was going on.
The move was purely a legal one, however, to expedite repairs to the roof of the jail, which was damaged by recent high winds.
“We had to skip the regular bid process to get the repairs done before we had more heavy rain or more wind that would have caused even more damage,” explained Stacy Wilson, county administrator.
Wilson said declaring the emergency was the only way to get those much needed repairs done without going through the normal time-consuming bid process. She noted the county had already received a check for the damage from the insurance company in an effort to get the repairs done quickly.
Those who were emailed the meeting agenda, including the news media and county officials, were calling the commissioner’s office after the email went out to inquire about the “emergency.”
“Even the sheriff called to ask what the emergency was that was going on at his jail,” Wilson said.
Commissioner Shayne Thomas suggested at Thursday’s meeting, conducted at Vanguard-Sentinel Career Center, such entries on an agenda be given more explanation.
“It needs to be descriptive,” Thomas said. “We don’t want to induce panic.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to declare the emergency.
The commissioners also voted to approve an agreement with Ohio Historical Connections that will result in the county receiving $50,000 in grant funding to be used for historical purposes.
Last week, the commissioners listened to representatives of several historical preservation groups that pitched their projects for grant funding. Representatives from the Fostoria area, including Pete DiCesare of the Fostoria Rail Preservation Society, were on hand to seek a piece of the grant pie.
DiCesare said his organization is seeking funds to pay for work on a B&O Railroad caboose acquired last year. The preservation society wants to add a handicap ramp and install emergency exit lighting to the caboose after it has been moved to the rail park.
Mike Kerschner, president of the board of commissioners, pointed out Thursday was the deadline for interested parties to submit their written requests to the commissioners for consideration for grant funding. He said as of Thursday morning, the commissioners had received written requests from four groups.
It was noted by Thomas the grant can be used for multiple projects and for partial funding of any project, widening the funding possibilities.
The commissioners had previously decided to vote Tuesday on which project or projects would be funded, but Thomas asked his fellow commissioners if they wanted to change a work session scheduled for April 28 to a regular session to give more time to consider the projects.
Kerschner said he wanted to stay with the scheduled Tuesday vote, explaining if more time is needed then, the commissioners could still change the work session to a regular session.
“The deadline for applying for the grant is April 28, so it would be tight if we moved (the date of the vote) and then had questions,” Kerschner said.
The county administrator is to rank the proposed projects, with the commissioners making the final decisions on funding.
In other business, Kerschner thanked the news media and others who attended the “topping off” ceremony Wednesday at the new Joint Justice Center construction site.
Kerschner also noted there are several individuals who are volunteering their time regarding various aspects of the JJC project, many of them serving on advisory committees charged with making recommendations for finishing touches to the structure and grounds.
“They’re working on things like Lady Justice and interior designs,” Kerschner said, referring to the statue that is expected to top the structure when it is completed later this year. “There are a lot of people working on these things, and we really appreciate their time and input.”
Commissioner Holly Stacy led a discussion on the time capsule that is being planned for inclusion in the building. She noted the capsule is expected to be opened in 50 years.
“There are a lot of categories we are working on for items we want to include.” Stacy said, “and we need help getting those things together.”
In addition to newspaper articles about the new building, Stacy said county businesses, schools, and officials from cities, villages, and townships are among those being asked to give items that can be included in the time capsule.
“We are also going to include predictions of what we think things will be like in the year 2067.”
Thursday’s meeting was conducted at Vanguard-Sentinel to allow students there to see government in action, but a two-hour fog delay required the commissioners to take a recess in the meeting. The commissioners also toured the school, including a new public safety building that is currently under construction.