Commissioners react to COVID-19 pandemic



SIDNEY — While 2020 had Shelby County celebrating the end of its 200th Anniversary with the Bicentennial Ball in February, local officials quickly switched gears with the outbreak of COVID-19.

“The governor’s orders to quarantine brought many changes to the operations of county government. Priorities were made to continue public services while keeping the employees and public safe. Offices have been in full operation with staff on premises, but many persons are working from home and access is limited to the public needing in-person assistance. Employees have daily temperature screenings, wear masks and social distance when in the office,” said Commissioner Julie Ehemann.

Her report continues:

The Commissioners were very concerned over what the pandemic and associated closures would do to local businesses and county revenues, and enacted a 10% cut to the personnel line item in the General Fund reducing hours for some employees.

Later, the Ohio Legislature allocated funds to local governments from Federal CARES Act monies allowing the county to upgrade County Building restrooms with touchless faucets and install other PPE measures in buildings. IT was updated to allow persons to work from home. We are currently working to upgrade the HVAC in the jail, and funding has been dedicated to security measures in several buildings.

In efforts to assist the community, the Shelby County Commissioners, with assistance from SSEP and the Sidney-Shelby County Chamber, set up a Small Business Assistance Grant program utilizing $100,000 of the CARES Act allocation. The city of Sidney added $50,000 of their allocation in order to ensure more Sidney businesses could be included. Successful applicants received grants of up to $5,000 with a total of $140,684 being awarded.

Another impact of COVID was seen with the 2020 Census. Outreach efforts were realigned and limited to social media and a billboard. Shelby County residents responded by self-reporting at a rate of 74.4% surpassing Ohio’s rate of 70.6% and the National rate of 60.7%.

We were pleased to complete a jail project which added a new intake area. The new space has a self-contained HVAC system which prevents any air contamination into the full jail and provides quarantine areas for incoming inmates.

MCM Consulting Group completed a Radio System Needs Assessment and strategic plan for the public safety radio system utilized by our first responders. The Commissioners are moving forward into Phase 2 which will develop engineering plans for the project.

Commissioners, the County Engineer and WWTP Superintendent have been working with Jones & Henry to develop plans to upgrade the Fort Loramie Waste Water Treatment Plant. The facility currently treats waste from Ft Loramie Lake residents, the Village of Fort Loramie, the Village of Kettlersville and the areas of Newport and McCartyville. With the final design being completed, bidding is anticipated for May with a construction start of August or September. This project is anticipated to cost $8 million. Built in 1987, much of the facility is outdated and past its life expectancy. As the EPA enacts stricter guidelines, enhancements are necessary to improve phosphorus removal and eliminate bypasses.

The commissioners recognized Manufacturing Day in October and its importance to Shelby County by visiting Select Arc in Fort Loramie and EMI in Jackson Center. We were pleased to be accompanied by Jim Hill of SSEP and the respective Mayors of the communities.

The commissioners are currently working with the Shelby County Schools to determine where gaps in broadband exist in the county, and then develop a plan on how access can be expanded.

As we reviewed revenue performance for 2020, sales tax revenue has not declined as was feared. At the close of 2020, Shelby County was up slightly over 2019 probably due to changes in how internet sales tax is collected. Decreased casino revenue was seen and is anticipated to continue in 2021, along with decreased interest income and jail services revenue. This scenario led the Commissioners to be very cautious in our budget for 2021.

Near the end of 2020, the State Legislature passed a Capital Budget allocating $100,000 to Shelby County for the fairgrounds. We are working on plans that will make necessary sewer and drainage improvements in that area.

While the pandemic is not over, your commissioners will continue to work to make Shelby County a great place to live. We welcome visitors to our sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays and remain available by appointment as well.