In 2019, community members and city officials made their voices heard.

They worked to improve the public health and wellness in and around the Fostoria area when they came together to voice concerns over the odor emitting from Sunny Farms Landfill just south of town.

In July 2019, landfill officials agreed to pay $1.71 million in civil penalties to resolve alleged violations of past water pollution, solid waste and air pollution control laws. The settlements, filed in Seneca County Common Pleas Court, included $600,000 to be held in a trust entitled “The Fostoria, Ohio Community Trust.”

That money will be used to assist qualified applicants in receiving funds for projects geared toward improving public health and wellness in and around the city.

“There were very clear qualifications outlined in the agreement that said what those funds could be used for,” said Tom Borer, Advisory Selection Committee chairman. “The money is to be used for the protection, conservation, preservation and enhancement of the air, water, public lands and natural resources in and around Fostoria.”

The Fostoria, Ohio Community Trust has been created in the Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) — a not-for-profit corporation organized by the Fostoria Economic Development Corporation. The money was placed in a money market account in a local bank set up by the CIC, which is the established trustee for the funds.

To apply for a grant through the CIC, an applicant must meet one of the following qualifications:

• a nonprofit group or organization with an established mission to improve public health and wellness and/or to improve the protection, conservation, preservation and enhancement of air, water, public lands, and natural resources;

• an educational institution, department representative, a local school, school district or parent-teacher association;

• a scientific or research organization;

• a local or municipal government body or political subdivision.

Applicants must fill out a standard application form, providing general contact information; the dollar amount requested; the purpose of the project/grant money and how it will benefit the community; plans for implementation, including a time frame; goals of the project; and budget information insofar as projected income and expenses as well as other financial aid requested.

“We really desire that money to be put to good use to improve the quality of life, the quality of health and safety in and around Fostoria,” Borer said. “We encourage qualified applicants to pursue the grant money. No idea is a bad idea. We look forward to reviewing the applications and awarding the grant monies.”

Grant applications will be accepted twice a year with spring applications due by May 15 and fall applications due by Oct. 15.

Submissions will be scored on purpose, implementation, evaluation, budget and future support.

As chief operating officer at ProMedica Fostoria Community Hospital, Borer was required to be on the selection committee as part of the settlement, along with Mayor Eric Keckler and Seneca County Health Commissioner Beth Schweitzer. The trio met in late-summer of 2019 and came up with a list of individuals they felt would best represent the areas affected by the landfill, including Fostoria, Hopewell-Loudon School district and Loudon Township.

The other voting members include Ed Logsdon, Don Mennel, Jason Painter, Bill McAllister, Jill Beidelschies and Philip Steyer. Also on the board are non-voting members Debra Hellman, director of Public Service and Safety, city of Fostoria, and Renee Smith, CIC director.

“The committee will make a recommendation to the Ohio (Environmental Protection Agency), which will then have to be approved by them,” Borer explained. “We don’t have the final say but we advise them and give them our recommendation.”

There is no time limit on when the trust money must be used. If there is still money left over after the first two rounds, Borer said the committee will continue to accept grant applications until all of the funds are depleted.

A brochure with additional information about the grant process can be found at under the community (CIC) tab. The application and project summary sheet can also be found on the website.

Questions about the trust, the advisory board or grant applications should be directed to any member of the advisory committee or the Community Improvement Corporation of Fostoria at 419-435-7789.