Wood County touts strength PDF Print E-mail
Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer   
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 11:10
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Wood County Commissioners address audience members during the state of the county inside the Wood County Courthouse atrium. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Wood County is strong and getting stronger, commissioners asserted during the annual state of the county address Tuesday.
The presentation highlighted strides in economic development and county finances over the last year that have allowed Wood County to make up ground despite ongoing challenges with reduced funding for local government.
Commissioner Jim Carter, president of the board, gave some historical context by sharing 100-year-old Sentinel-Tribune articles showing conditions similar to now.
"It appears that 100 years ago, we were dealing with snow as well," Carter said, explaining that heavy snowfall did not cease production on Bowling Green's expansion. Projects persisted, such as the construction of a new post office, now the committee on aging, and a normal school that would become Bowling Green State University.
The county has grown in the last century, although annual appropriations of $37.1 million for 2014 are at the lowest level in decades, Carter said. In 2013, sales tax receipts reached a record level of $17 million, and the county's share of state casino taxes has helped to offset reductions to local government funding and "sluggish" local investments that now yield much less.
"Despite the unstable economic times of the past few years, Wood County has continued to remain fiscally strong," Carter said, explaining that savings and paying down debt has allowed capital projects such as a planned $5 million expansion of the county jail to be paid for without borrowing.
Carter also referenced an economic impact study of the National Tractor Pulling Championships that shows the event totals more than $36 million, with $30 million being spent in the county.
"We are very pleased that we can call Wood County home to an event such as this, and look forward to continuing to work with the pullers to ensure their future success."
Commissioner Joel Kuhlman said the commissioners role in promoting efficient, cost-effective operations is an important one that is ongoing.
"Finding this balance and realizing operational efficiencies through merging like functions is a continual process for us," he said.
Examples Kuhlman shared included appointing Joe Fawcett, assistant county administrator, to oversee the landfill rather than replace a retiring director. Also, commissioners combined the maintenance departments of the courthouse and East Gypsy Lane complexes, naming Tim Hainen as facilities director to oversee capital projects and maintenance.
"Each department worked independently of each other, and we found that these departments could and should be combined so the personnel, equipment and project planning and coordination occur in unison," Kuhlman said.
While general fund spending is down, Kuhlman said commissioners are committed to upgrading facilities when possible, particularly when it boosts efficiency, as was the case with a new boiler system installed in the office complex.
Kuhlman also mentioned the upgrade of a first-floor unisex restroom at the courthouse complex to standards compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which later drew praise from Susan Zies, of Perrysburg. Zies commended the upgrade, which she said benefitted her 18-year-old son Zac, who is disabled and worked an internship at the courthouse complex.
"It was about time to make a place available for those who needed it," Kuhlman said.
Commissioner Doris Herringshaw, the last to address the crowd of county workers and community members, reviewed the operations of Job and Family Services and Wood Haven Health Care, pointing out that JFS has saved taxpayers more than $1.8 million by asking that its levy collections be reduced.
Herringshaw reviewed investments by BGSU in new buildings over the last several years that totaled more than $200 million, and said a criminal investigations lab is on track to be complete by November.
Herringshaw said progress on cleaning the Portage River has been slower than anticipated, but the project is moving forward. She emphasized the scope of the work, which will occur over 46 miles of the south and east branches in three counties and impact 10,000 land parcels.
"This project really hasn't moved along as quickly as we all would have liked, but it is moving forward, and we're excited about that," Herringshaw said.
Herringshaw encouraged all present Tuesday to make purchases in Wood County whenever possible, as it benefits not only local retailers, but supports county operations through a 1-percent tax collection.
"When you and your family purchase items in Wood County, that penny remains here. When you purchase items in another county, that county gets to keep the sales tax for their use," Herringshaw explained. "Our sales tax rate is lower than almost all of our neighboring counties, and as a result, purchase of taxable items in Wood County will be less expensive overall."
"In spite of the recession, we remain steadfast in our optimism for the future of Wood County."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 14:08
 

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