By RON CRAIG
During a work session Tuesday morning, Seneca County commissioners were informed the city of Fostoria may or may not be a partner in Seneca Regional Planning Commission’s comprehensive plan.
Charlene Watkins, executive director of RPC, said she is still waiting to hear from Renee Smith of Fostoria Economic Development Corp. on whether it will join the city of Tiffin and the county in the plan.
“(Officials from) the city of Tiffin said they could put $35,000 in for the plan,” Watkins said of the $140,000 it will take to get the plan done. “I’ve been told putting in $35,000 from the city of Fostoria is not going to happen, but we’re hoping (FEDC) can up with something.”
Watkins said if the city doesn’t become a partner in the project, the city would still get a “gloss over” in it.
The comprehensive plan would allow economic development officials and businesses looking to locate in the county information on land use, available resources, and other data important to economic development decisions.
Watkins said her agency received requests for proposals from several companies and has settled on CT Consultants to develop the plan.
“We were looking for the (company) that could do the best for us. We looked at who had the most knowledge, who had the most resources, and who knows the county the best,” Watkins noted.
While the total cost of the project started out at $200,000, RPC negotiated a lower price, coming up with $140,000 which would include the county’s park district in the plan at a cost of $20,000. The remaining $120,000 would need to be paid by the county and the two cities.
If Fostoria decides not to participate, the cost would likely be lower, Watkins explained.
Commissioner Shayne Thomas said he hopes the city of Fostoria may be able to come up with $10,000 to participate.
Mike Kerschner, president of the board of commissioners, also said a deal may be able to be worked out with Fostoria officials for them to participate and pay back the county over a period of three years via continued assessments.
An attempt to reach Smith for comment on where FEDC stands on the issue was unsuccessful, and a message left for Smith at FEDC was not returned by press time.
When questioned by Kerschner about a firm commitment from Tiffin officials, Watkins said she had met with the city’s financial officials, who said they would recommend approval to city council members.
Kerschner then said the county might be willing to pay a portion of their $35,000 contribution to the project. Asked during the meeting by the Review Times if the county would consider assisting the city of Fostoria with their costs, Kerschner left the door open for such assistance.
“Yes, we could look at paying a share of it, if it’s not too burdensome,” Kerschner replied.
Watkins said her agency has put aside $42,560 for the plan, but Kerschner pressed her regarding other funds that were to be put toward the plan. He said there had been fund carryovers in past years that county officials thought were to be used for the plan.
Watkins said those commitments must have come from someone before her time as executive director of RPC.
“There are also the additional assessments (being paid by the county, cities, townships and villages) for it,” Kerschner said.
Kerschner said there should be about $60,000 available in additional assessment funds by the end of the year. If the cost turns out to be $140,000 and the city of Tiffin kicks in $35,000, it should leave about $45,000 to complete the funding for the plan.
If the city of Fostoria opts out of the plan, the cost should be lower, meaning even less than $45,000 should be required.
The goal is to get as many entities involved as possible, lowering the cost of the plan, it was noted. Kerschner said there may be others that could be involved, like the park district has done.
A list of aspects of the plan were given to the board, and Commissioner Holly Stacy asked Watkins about the inclusion of broadband communications in the plan.
“We want the plan to include something that shows the need (for broadband),” Stacy said.
Watkins said broadband would be included in the utilities portion of the plan.
“We may not think of it as a utility, but it is,” Watkins said of broadband services.
Watkins also informed the commissioners her agency now has leadership from townships in the Fostoria area. Jackson Township Trustee Tim Reinhart is now president of RPC, and Loudon Township Trustee Jason Painter is vice-president.