PORT JEFFERSON – Pending state legislation and its possible local impact dominated discussion topics at the annual Shelby County Township Trustees Association governmental meeting here Monday. State and local officials advised attendees what to expect in their own backyards in the future.
Nearly 100 people attended the meeting and dinner at Hussey’s Restaurant to hear about an upcoming prevailing wage Senate bill; aims to curb welfare fraud; and to prepare now regarding zoning guidelines for medical marijuana use.
Senator Matt Huffman, 12th District, R-Lima, was the featured speaker. Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart reviewed zoning issues, and Doug Ahlers, director of the Shelby County Land Bank, spoke of issues facing his department.
Huffman told the gathering he intends to introduce a bill next week giving local governments the authority of whether to require prevailing wage stipulations on construction projects. His plan is to give entities the authority to permanently ban the prevailing wage or on a case-by-case basis.
Huffman said the current statewide wage law hampers less populated areas such as Shelby County. Without being forced to pay higher wages earned in larger cities, local governments could save 5 to 20 percent in building costs. He also noted the market should dictate the current market rate of pay in areas like Shelby County, where the cost-of-living is less.
The senator claimed to have the support of the Ohio Municipal League, and the County Commissioners Association, and awaiting word from Ohio Township Association officials.
Also, Huffman spoke of being involved with attempts to improve defenses against welfare fraud.
He noted authorities report finding EBT cards when conducting raids on illegal drug locations. Low income people use the cards as cash in today’s “drug culture” to obtain drugs, he said.
The Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card resembles a credit card in appearances, and is more commonly referred to as a “food stamps card.” It’s issued by local Job and Family Services agencies for those in need of food assistance.
Huffman is pushing to have photo ID placed on the card in hopes of eliminating the ability to trade the card for drugs.
Lenhart told of being one of a 14-member state committee to explore the aspect of medical marijuana use. He told trustees they would need to examine their zoning regulations regarding the growing, processing and delivery of medical marijuana.
The sheriff said it could take up to two years before are regulations are finalized, but said it is best to be prepared in case any such businesses wish to locate in Shelby County.
Two weeks ago, Lenhart visited authorities in Denver, Colorado, regarding recreational use regulations for marijuana in place there.
Lenhart also said upcoming zoning issues may arise for those that now have a shooting range in their jurisdiction.
He plans to offer more details on the issues at the April 12 trustees meeting in Franklin Township.
Ahlers asked trustees and county officials to alert him of vacant and/or blighted properties, which could qualify for remediation through the county Land Bank, located in the country treasurer’s office.
He explained his efforts are to work with officials and individuals to remove and green such 1 to 4 family residential properties. The plan is to prevent future foreclosures for existing home owners.
Ahlers said several options exist to dispose of the properties including renovation, demolition, donation or transfer of ownership. Financial limitations exist for fix-up and outright purchase plans.
The Land Bank was initially financed through donations from the city of Sidney, villages and Shelby County Commissioners. The program is now funded by use of a state Housing Improvement grant, and a portion of the Delinquent Tax and Assessment Collection funding from the county.