Wood County stable in uncertain times
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 08:57
A century ago, Wood County was seeing a growth spurt in settlers and oil gushing from the ground.
|Wood County Commissioners Joel Kuhlman (middle), Jim Carter (left) and Doris Herringshaw (right) are seen during the State of the County address at the Wood County Court House. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
The newspaper had stories on 400 barrels of oil being captured in a three-day period, on Belleville Market making home deliveries of ground beef for 13 cents a pound, and on high winds taking off the roof of an underwear factory in Bowling Green.
Times have changed, according to the Wood County commissioners who presented their State of the County address Tuesday morning for the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce.
The oil was tapped dry, ground beef is far costlier, and the underwear factory is long gone.
The issues now facing county government range from declining revenue and merging of office staff, to bridge repairs and a jail expansion.
Wood County Commissioner Jim Carter said the county remains cautious due to the reductions in the state's local government fund and the decline in investment income. On the brighter side, the county's sales tax revenue continues to increase and the county has received its first installment of casino tax revenue - which was dedicated to road and bridge repair.
The county's healthy AA2 bond rating continues to benefit the area, Carter said.
"The county's excellent bond rating saves the county in many ways," he said.
Wood County Commissioner Joel Kuhlman explained the county's effort to save taxpayer money by not immediately filling job vacancies, but instead looking to see if existing employees can be realigned to handle the responsibilities.
County employees have shown "a willingness to take on new challenges," Kuhlman said.
Kuhlman reported on improvements planned for the radio system linking emergency responders in the county. He also talked about the bridge and road repairs completed in the county last year.
Commissioner Doris Herringshaw talked about the efforts of Wood County Children's Services to prevent child abuse, an award given to the building inspection office, and an update on Wood Haven Health Care. She also noted progress on the Portage River cleanout effort affecting 10,000 land parcels in Wood, Hancock and Seneca counties. And she spoke of the county's efforts to protect farmland and advocate for agriculture.
Herringshaw also mentioned the commissioners' effort to hold town meetings throughout the county, with meetings held last year in Fostoria, Pemberville, Perrysburg Township, Rossford and Northwood.
She said that even in the face of the economic downturn, Wood County is strong.
"In spite of the recession, we remain steadfast in our optimism for Wood County," Herringshaw said.
Herringshaw encouraged those present to shop locally - since sales tax revenue is a primary income for the county. She also noted that Wood County's sales tax rate is lower than many neighboring counties'.
Kuhlman mentioned the uncertainty about a new sales tax proposal by Gov. John Kasich. The proposal is to reduce the overall sales tax rate, but increase the base so services such as a legal services and barbershops are taxed.
The commissioners are concerned about a provision in the proposal that would cap the sales tax increase that a county could receive - especially considering sales tax revenue is so important to the county, Kuhlman said. Interest and investment income are not expected to rebound anytime soon, he added.
Because of the uncertainty in revenue, the county will continue to watch its finances.
"We must be very conservative in our spending," Carter said. "We don't know what's going to be in the state budget for sure."
Earlene Kilpatrick, executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, echoed those concerns.
"We're all holding our breath about the state budget," she said.
The commissioners also addressed some employment issues. Carter said efforts are being made to interest students in skilled trades, such as welding, plumbing and pipefitting, since many of those jobs are going unfilled. They also discussed the problem of many job applicants being unable to pass drug testing by employers.
On a lighter issue, Carter reported on the baby Peregrine falcons that were hatched last year in the courthouse clock tower.
"We are really pleased to report there are no more pigeons roosting on our courthouse," he said.
Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards thanked the commissioners for their efforts taking care of the aging county courthouse.
"We're very, very proud of it," Carter said.