TIFFIN — Seneca County Board of Commissioners approved a state of emergency declaration Thursday morning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting communities across the world.
The proclamation gives limited emergency powers to County Administrator Stacy Wilson and could set the county up to receive state or federal emergency funds and allows the commissioners to hold digital meetings.
The declaration also allows commissioners to exempt the competitive bidding process on projects related to the emergency with any cost less than $100,000. Typically, the bidding process could be exempted for any project with a cost below $50,000.
Also during the meeting, commissioners discussed economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent days, Gov. Mike DeWine has asked his cabinet members to attempt to reduce their budgets by 20 percent. DeWine also imposed a freeze on any new contracts.
Commissioners sent a message to department leaders and elected officials to attempt to reduce budgets by 30 percent. The county’s General Fund budget projected expenditures of about $17.5 million for this year. A 30-percent reduction of this would mean cutting about $5.25 million from the budget.
For reference, the budgeted expenditures during the recession in 2009, were about $16.2 million. Commissioners said some departments, such as Seneca County EMS and the county emergency management agency, would not be able to be reduced as much as others because of their function fighting this pandemic. Commissioner Mike Kerschner suggested all non-essential travel and training should be fully cut from budgets. He also said it’s possible staffing levels would need to be reduced.
These reductions are necessary because of the slowdown of the local, state and national economy due to the ongoing health crisis.
State unemployment figures from March 15-21 ballooned to 187,780 claims, compared to 7,042 claims from the previous week. That number of claims during that one-week period is higher than every month since December 1981 (205,159 claims).
The board opened bids for the following projects:
• School of Opportunity for two, eight-passenger, four-wheelchair buses (with alternative options): 1.) Tesco, Option 1, $120,304.00; Option 2, $126,538.00.
• The county engineer’s 2020 pavement resurfacing project, with work on county roads 32, 34, 52, 54 and 594, estimated at $1,560, 575: M&B Asphalt, $1,369,102.74; Erie Blacktop, $1,393,705.73; Gerken Paving, $1,419,674.29.
Also during the meeting, Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership President and CEO David Zak said his agency is working to provide information and resources to businesses adversely affected by COVID-19.
More information is available online at TSEPcoronavirus.com or by texting coronavirus to 474747.
In other action, commissioners vowed to continue their commitment to accessibility, even though office hours are limited in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. They did this by sharing their private cell phone numbers: Commissioner Shayne Thomas, (419) 618-3806; Commissioner Mike Kerschner, (419) 934-0523; Commissioner Tony Paradiso (419) 386-9503.
During new business, commissioners approved:
• An $89,032 supplemental appropriation to the General Fund in the Transfers Out Line.
• A $1,775 supplemental appropriation to the Juvenile Program and Services Fund for contract repairs.
• A $9,400 fund advance from the General Fund to the County Community Development Block Grant Fund.
• A $65,503.50 fund transfer to the Public Assistance Fund.
• An $89,032 fund transfer to the Soil and Water Fund.
• Authorizing the reduced-speed zone on County Road 50 in Adrian, in Seneca County.
• Accepting the farm-lease bid and entering into an agreement with Fred Schoen for one year. Schoen, of Republic, bid $288.50 per acre for roughly 147 acres of county-owned agricultural land in Eden Township.
• Setting 10:15 a.m. on April 16 to receive bids for the 2020 Chip Seal Project.
• Authorizing the board to enter into a contract with Prestress Services Industries of Ohio.
• Accepting the bid from Rush Truck Centers of Ohio for a 64-passenger school bus on behalf of the opportunity center.
• Authorizing a contract with Cornerstone Historical Building Restoration, for restoration work at the Seneca County Museum’s Carriage House.
• Authorizing the IV-D service contract between Common Pleas Courts I and II, the juvenile court clerk and magistrate, the county clerk of courts and the county, on behalf of Seneca County Department of Job and Family Services.
• Authorizing a temporary cell phone policy on behalf of the Seneca County Department of Job and Family Services.