Three inducted into Hall of Honor
EATON — Record crowds turned out for the Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration at the Preble County Historical Society. The annual celebration was held on Sunday, July 2 and kicked off with music from the Eaton Community Band and Chorus — but the festival went all night and ended with fireworks.
It was $5 per car to get into the event, with all proceeds benefiting the PCHS.
The event started with music by the Eaton Community Band and the Eaton Community Chorus. The Cincinnati Circus trapeze and strolling magicians returned to entertain children. There were also exhibits, children’s games, face painting, bounce houses, and food and merchandise vendors. The 2017 Hall of Honor induction was held at 6:30 p.m., followed by music by Flat Out and fireworks when it got dark.
The Hall of Honor was named the Sara Swartsel Hall of Honor back in 2011, in celebration of its 40th anniversary. This was in recognition of the heritage and philanthropy of the Swartsel family. The Register-Herald joined the PCHS as co-sponsors.
This year, the Hall of Honor inducted its seventh membership class. Criteria states that the inductee must be deceased and have lived in Preble County at some point in their lives. They must also meet one of the following requirements: have been outstanding in achievement in agriculture, arts, professions, politics, public service, education, or sports, or have a reputation that brings honor to the county, or personal commitment and service to the county, or had a lasting impact on the county.
For this year, there were three individuals inducted into the Hall of Honor. During her speech, Preble County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Leslie Collins said, “One thing that I think deserves to be pointed out today, is that every member that we are inducting today was someway connected to or served in the armed forces. They really do all need a great big round of applause for that.”
MedFlight 8 welcomed to Preble
EATON — Kettering Health Network and MedFlight celebrated the completion of the MedFlight 8 permanent medical helicopter and base at the Preble County Medical Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 17.
MedFLight 8 is located adjacent to the Preble County Medical Center, located at 450 Washington-Jackson Road in Eaton.
Kettering Health Network and MedFlight held a Community Open House and Family Fun Cookout following the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Kids of all ages explored emergency vehicles including a MedFlight helicopter, a fire truck and an ambulance. The Community Outreach team provided a health fair which included wellness tips and the Wheel of Health. A balloon artist, face painting and other entertainment were also provided
The MedFlight 8 Base includes a hangar and crew living quarters. The base is staffed by pilots, mechanics, and critical care nurses and paramedics. Since February 2017 the MedFlight helicopter crew has been temporarily based inside the Preble Emergency Center 24-hours a day, while the new base was under construction.
The addition of MedFlight 8 allows Kettering Health Network to provide comprehensive air and ground coverage for residents in the network’s service area.
Kettering Health Network’s partnership with MedFlight began in 2013, when MedFlight placed a medical helicopter base nearby in Fayette County, serving Kettering Health Network and other partnering health systems and communities to the east of the greater Dayton area, including Fayette and Clinton counties.
MedFlight provides critical care transportation of patients between Kettering Health Network hospitals and other hospitals as necessary. It also responds to accident scenes and transports patients to the most appropriate hospital for critical care.
The first recognized was Colonel Charles M. Hendricks, M.D. He lived from 1877-1953. Hendricks was born and raised in Preble County, but he went off to Miami University to play football. He pursued a medical degree at the University of Cincinnati. During his medical career, he devoted his life to the study and treatment of respiratory diseased, spurred by the death of his younger brother and best friend Arthur to pneumonia. When he graduated, he received an internship at the National Jewish Hospital for Tuberculosis.
Shortly before leaving Eaton for Denver, Hendricks married Edith Duguid. He set up his practice in El Paso, Texas and became the director of the Albert Baldwin Sanatorium.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army Medical Corp in 1917, with World War I on the horizon. He was assigned to the 90th Infantry Division for Texas and Oklahoma. He served as Captain and Chief Medical Officer. It was during his military service where he made some of his most significant contributions to the health and well-being of the American Solider.
After the War, Hendricks returned to Eaton. He became owner and operator of medical facility The Hendricks Sanatorium. He continued to service in the Army Reserve and was promoted to full Colonel. He even put forth the idea that blood type should be included on the Dog Tags worn by millions of service personnel.
In 1953, the Sun Bowl Association created the Dr. C. M. Hendricks Most Valuable Player Award in his honor. Hendricks and his wife are buried in the Fort Bliss National Cemetery.
The second gentleman honored was Clarence Irvin Kesler, who lived from 1882-1975. He was presented the Navy Cross by the President of the United States for distinguished service in the line of his profession as a member of the crew of the Seaplane NC-1 which made a long overseas flight from Newfoundland to the vicinity of the Azores in May, 1919.
Kesler also received the Order of the Tower and Sword medallion from the King of Portugal along with all the crew members of the first transatlantic flight.
He received other recognition for his involvement in the Navy’s testing the feasibility of using a plane to launch torpedoes against ships while he was assigned to Torpedo Squadron One. He was given recognition for saving the trapped pilot of a plane that went down during one of the test flights over the Chesapeake Day.
He entered the Navy in 1905 and the Navy aviation branch in 1913. Prior to the Nancy flight he was enrolled in a post-graduate aeronautics course at Harvard University.
He married Orpha Mae Kimbrough on Nov. 28, 1923 while in the USN Air Service in Washington DC. He retired from the Navy in 1924 with the rank of Chief Aviation Pilot Navy Number 21. He was a chicken rancher near Osteen, Florida where he owned and operated the Olustee Big Store. He joined the Pan American Airways System in December 1928.
Present for his induction were his son Edwin Kesler, his grandson Phillip L. Kesler, his great-grandson Charles L. Kesler, and his granddaughter Shirley M. Kesler.
The last individual inducted was James Edward Quinn, who lived from 1920-1997. He was a descendant of one of the earliest settlers of Preble County. His ancestors arrived in Ohio in 1805 and moved to what is now Preble County in 1807. The family has been here ever since.
The first Quinn family built a house on what is now Quinn Road, which was named after their family.
Quinn was a charter member of the PCHS where he volunteered as a member of the board of trustees. He donated many items of historical significance to the Society, among these are a textile quilt, various birth and christening certificates, several rifles, clothing, books, pencil drawing of Arthur St. Clair, paintings by Elizabeth Mulhoffer and Laura Hunt, doll’s furniture, 1892 typewriter, and many other items.
He served as the representative of the Village of West Alexandria on the Republican Central Committee for 15 years. He and his wife Phyllis co-chaired the West Alexandria celebration of the United States Bicentennial in 1976. He was a West Alexandria Village Council member. He also worked as a school bus driver. He was a member of the Salem Lutheran Church where he sang in the church choir, the Rod & Gun Club, American Legion Post 322, and the West Alexandria Lions Club.
He was also a member of the Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm.
Professionally, he worked as a construction inspector for the Ohio Department of Transportation for 22 years. He also worked at the water treatment plants in Eaton and West Alexandria, and at Screw Products, now known as Parker Hannifin. He owned and operated several businesses in West Alexandria. He also worked as a salesman at an auto dealership.
Quinn served his country in the National Guard from Eaton for five years and in the Army 147th Infantry 3rd Battalion during World War II. He was Platoon Sergeant, combat infantry, and carbine sharpshooter. He received two bronze starts, a good conduct medal, and the American Defense Service Medal.
He is survived by his son Robert Allen Quinn, his stepdaughter Susan Rae Fieder Carico, three grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
Anyone is welcome to submit a nomination for the Hall of Honor, as long as the potential inductee meets the previously mentioned criteria.
The deadline for submissions for next year is April 1, 2018. You can make a nomination to the Hall of Honor by visiting the PCHS’s web site at www.preblecountyhistoricalsociety.com and downloading an application. You may also email the Society at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 937-787-4256.
At the end of the Hall of Honor ceremony, PCHS Vice-President Brian Smith said, “Let’s give a shout out to our sponsors. Without them, we couldn’t do what we do out here. We definitely wouldn’t be having events like this. They are a big part of everything.
“Also, look around, each one of you paid to get in today. Those funds go to help keep us going. I think you all deserve a round of applause to help us. The fireworks are cool, the bands are awesome, but at the end of the day this is a fundraiser for us and a recognition for the families of these folks here.”
July 12, 2017
Lewisburg creates Hometown Heroes program
LEWISBURG — The Village of Lewisburg will be honoring their Hometown Heroes through pole banners displayed on Commerce Street in 2018.
The banners will feature veterans and will be displayed from Memorial Day through Veterans’ Day for five years, and then returned to the purchaser. The banners are available to those who want to honor area veterans (or those currently in service,) for $175.
Pam Baker explained, “This is for our Bicentennial, of course, in September 2018. What we’re doing is every month we’re having a special event. For May we’re doing Hometown Heroes. We are trying to get veterans from Lewisburg, Harrison Township, and Verona. We’re trying to get names and trying to get them to fill out an application and purchase a flag for their Hometown Hero. Whether it be father, brother, son, aunt — the deadline for that is October and we’re going to get those purchased and put up on Memorial Day.”
The banners will be displayed until Veterans’ Day in November. From now on, every year these banners will go up, until the flag is tattered or torn. At that point, they will approach the family and try to get a new flag for them.
Baker got this idea from West Milton, who has done this. “When you go down through the center of their town, it just pulls at your heart,” she said. “There are a lot of people there that people don’t realize have been in the military and have served our country. This is a way to dedicate our month of May and our two-hundredth anniversary to those people.”
They are looking for service members who have lived, at one point, in Lewisburg, Harrison Township, or Verona. School districts count as well. So, if there is a veteran who had another town’s address, but belonged to Tri-County North School District, their banner can be represented through Hometown Heroes.
According to Baker, the banner will be 30”x60”. It will have the service member’s picture and underneath the family has the opportunity to choose the text. They can include the name, branch of service, if they were killed in action, prisoner of war, the dates they served, if they retired from service — they can include any information about the service they wish to. They are given three lines to fit in that information.
This is not a fundraiser in any way. The village is making no profit — the money collected goes to the banners and nothing else.
On the three-page application, there is information regarding how to submit photos for the banner. The application is available at the municipal building or through Baker. She has been sending out applications and has already sent out 75 from people contacting her, but she is running into an issue in finding people.
“The problem being is, I have all deceased veterans in this area who have been buried in Roselawn, but there is no one you can contact that gives you a list of military service men from this area. It makes it hard to find out who’s been in the military,” she explained.
The banners will go up a week before Memorial Day 2018. The village will take them down in November and will store the banners when they are not in use. Then in 2019 they will go back up and the cycle will be repeated. Every year there will be this opportunity to add a banner. If someone decides next year they want to put a veteran on a banner, they will have that opportunity, even though the 2018 banner’s deadline is October.
“I just hope that everybody is happy with what is happening with this,” she said. “The enthusiasm I’ve heard with people that have gotten their letter and things have been amazing. It’s a great way to know if your neighbor or people you don’t even know are veterans. Families who have had father, grandfather, son all in the military can do this.”
For more information, or to request an application, contact Baker at email@example.com or 937-962-2190. There are also applications available at Lewisburg’s municipal building.
July 15, 2017
Powerful storm knocks out power
PREBLE COUNTY — Emergency personnel were kept busy Tuesday afternoon, July 11, as a storm rolled through Preble County knocking out power to nearly 13,000 homes and causing damage to homes and vehicles.
“This afternoon’s storm caused major issues for Preble County residents. The Sheriff’s Office 9-1-1 Dispatch Center answered hundreds of calls from residents reporting power lines and trees down across roadways,” Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson said on Tuesday.
Simpson said many of the county’s fire departments were activated to assess damage and several roadways were closed until crews from Dayton Power & Light could arrive.
Power was reported out in Eaton, Camden, Lewisburg and New Paris.
According to Simpson, road crews from the Ohio Department of Transportation, Preble County Engineer, township and local street crews are in the process of clearing roadways.
He said residents are asked to be cautious while driving in case they come across trees or lines that may still be down.
The next day, during the Preble County Commissioner’s meeting on Wednesday, July 12, Commissioner Chris Day reported “As of this morning there are still 2,000 residents out of power in Preble County.”
Commission Clerk Connie Crowell added, “We got a notice from ODOT saying that State Route 320 remains closed due to down power lines and high winds. A one mile section of highway 320 is closed at U.S. 40 and U.S. 121 — approximately 25-30 trees are on the road today.”
Road crews and crews from DP&L continued there work throughout the day on Wednesday, and DP&L distributed ice to residents in the Camden and Gasper Township areas who remained without power.
July 26, 2017
PA introduces new system
EATON — Technology is helping the Preble County Prosecutor’s Office do more — with less.
Prosecutor Martin Votel recently introduced a case management system designed specifically for Ohio prosecutor’s offices: Matrix.
“Matrix”, a state-of-the-art case management system, “has revolutionized the way business is done in the Preble County Prosecutor’s Office,” Votel said recently.
“Technology, when properly applied, not only saves public money — it can have an amazing impact on office productivity,” he added.
In August 2015, Votel’s office began using Matrix.
Fast-forward nearly two years, and the office is virtually “paperless,” according to Votel.
“Gone are the mammoth file cabinets which used to house hundreds of paper files, replaced instead by electronic files maintained securely ‘in the cloud.’ These files are available to our prosecutors at work, at home, and in the courtroom via secure wireless connections. Each prosecutor now has our entire caseload at their fingertips 24 hours a day, and the former file room is now the copy room,” he added.
With Matrix, police agencies use a secure web portal to send police reports directly to the prosecutor’s office. Prosecutors review cases on-line and communicate with police officers electronically — no paperwork is sent or received. When charges are appropriate, prosecutors can prepare all charging documents with a few clicks of a mouse. As cases progress through the court system, Matrix is used to exchange discovery with defense attorneys, prepare plea offers, and produce court paperwork (the system “auto-populates,” according to Votel, meaning it automatically enters the correct data into every court document, including case number, criminal code section, defendant name, etc.)
Because Matrix is used for “law enforcement purposes,” the law permitted the initial purchase of the software to be made from the prosecutor’s “Law Enforcement Trust Fund,” Votel said. “This fund contains money seized from drug traffickers prosecuted in Preble County — it does not contain a single cent of taxpayer money. Naturally, the increase in productivity has reduced labor and storage costs — manual tasks such as filing, discovery preparation, document preparation, and the like are no longer required. Beginning in fiscal year 2018, this increase in productivity will generate savings sufficient to cover the annual Matrix licensing fee, with thousands of dollars left over to satisfy other budgetary needs without additional public funding.”
“Over the past dozen years, the annual budget appropriation of the Prosecutor’s Office has been reduced over 10 percent in actual dollars, and personnel has been reduced 25 percent,” Votel said.
The budget appropriation for the Preble County Prosecutor’s Office was $600, 831 in 2004. This year, it is $538,924.62, according to Preble County Auditor data provided by Votel.
“These reductions, though regrettable, are necessary in an era of ever-increasing criminal and civil caseloads and limited resources. The smart use of technology is, in part, responsible for our ability to accomplish more of the public’s business with fewer tax dollars,” Votel said.
He encourages anyone with any questions regarding the technology initiative to call his office at 937-456-8156.
Aug. 9, 2017
Sale of Champions
EATON — The Junior Fair Market Livestock Sale rounded out what is a long process for 4-H participants. The sale, held on Friday, Aug. 4, began with a record-breaking Sale of Champions, which ended in mixed emotions and many tears.
For some kids it is hard to sell the project they have been working on for a year, while others are used to the process and don’t get as emotional.
Per fair guidelines, all Grand and Reserve Grand Champions must be sold in the market sale. They must be taken to harvest immediately after sale. All livestock must be alive and able to enter the sale ring in order to sell in the Livestock Sale.
As for the broken records, Cole George of Somers Super Beef had the Champion Market Broilers. He broke the standing record of $2,800 by selling his Grand Champion chickens for $3,700. “I’m feeling excited and surprised,” he said. “It’s sad to see one go, but it has to happen.”
Emma Burr of Monroe Better Livestock had the Champion Market Goat. She broke the standing record of $3,700 by selling her Grand Champion for $4,000.
Kole Glander of Monroe Better Livestock had the Champion Market Hog. He broke the standing record of $3,700 by selling his Grand Champion for $4,800. “It felt amazing to get Champion. I wasn’t expecting it at all,” he said. “I’m going to put the money towards my college. For the sale, I just got out there and smiled and hoped for the best. I’ve been doing this for a couple years, so I’m used to selling market animals.”
Even without breaking the standing records, the experience of selling market animals is a mixed bag of emotions. Some of the participants were very emotional to lose the animal they have spent so much time with.
Kara Burton of All Star Livestock had the Champion Market Lamb, which she sold for $2,350. For her, this was an emotional experience. “When you put in a lot of work with these animals, it’s really hard to sell them,” she said. “When you sell them it’s like you’re giving up that hard work, but it’s all worth it in the end. Next year is my last year, so I’m going to do this again with everything I have.”
Haley Davidson, also of All Star Livestock, had the Reserve Champion Market Lamb, which she sold for $1,200. She also found the experience to be emotional. “I’ve gotten really attached to this animal,” she admitted. “When you’re working with the animal you get really attached to it and then you sell it and it just goes away.”
Kinsey Crowe of Twin Valley South FFA got Champion Market Steer, which she sold for $5,500. “I’m feeling very sad,” she said. We did very well in the sale, he brought lots of money. I will probably put it back towards the people who helped me buy him.”
Mackenzie Neal of Somers Super Beef had Reserve Champion Market Steer and was equally as emotional. Her steer sold for $4,850. “It was pretty awesome to win, because I worked hard all summer,” she said. “I felt good about the sale, but I also felt really sad, because I don’t ever want to leave him. I’m feeling good about everything, but I’m still upset.”
Some of the kids were just excited to have won Champion or Reserve Champion with their animal.
Lea Haney of Somers Super Beef got Reserve Champion Market Broilers, which she sold for $2,000. “It’s amazing, I never knew I could do it,” she gushed. “Going into the sale, I didn’t think I would get that much money. I’m going save the money for a car or college.”
Katelyn Meeks of Preble Lambs Unlimited got Champion Market Turkey, which she sold for $1,100. Winning Champion was a goal of hers, so she was excited about the whole process. “I’m feeling pretty good right now. It felt really good to win Champion. That was one of my big goals this year,” she said. “I was hoping to get a little bit of money out of it, but most of all it was great to get the award, because that was my goal to get Grand Champion Turkey.”
Jonathon McLane of Monroe Better Livestock was “jumping up and down” when he got Reserve Champion Market Turkey, which he sold for $850. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen during the sale,” he said. “I didn’t think I would be here in the first place. I’m really happy with the turn out. I’ll probably save the money for future things. I didn’t really get emotional — turkeys don’t make me emotional.”
Then there are some people who are just used to selling their market animals and accept it as a way of life.
Johnathon Cottingim with Somers Super Livestock & Swine got Grand Champion Market Rabbits, which he sold for $1,775. “It feels good to win,” he said. “I’ve shown rabbits for a few years now and it feels good to finally get on top. Going into the sale today, I was really nervous and really excited. This was my last year in 4-H, so it feels good to go out in a big way. The money I got is going straight to the college fund. After 11 years, I finally got used to selling market animals. It still is a little bit emotional, you spend all summer working with your livestock, and you have to sell it at the end, but you get used to it.”
All the Reserve and Grand Champion winners expressed gratitude to their buyers for their generosity.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded $275,953 to the Camden-Somers Township Fire Department for vehicle acquisition through the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program.
“Ohio firefighters and first-responders work every day to protect our families,” said Brown. “We must support our first-responder organizations so that communities like Camden have the resources to shield families and homes from fire hazards.”
The AFG program supports fire departments across the country to ensure the safety of both first-responders and the public. The program provides funds for supplemental training, upgrades to protective equipment, facility modifications, and other supplies that protect firefighters and first-responders in moments of crisis. Grants are awarded to fire department-based and non-affiliated EMS organizations that best address the priorities of the AFG Program.
Aug. 16, 2017
New truancy laws in effect
PREBLE COUNTY — A truancy bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Rezabek went into effect in April, but applies to the upcoming school year, according to Preble County Juvenile Judge Jenifer Overmeyer.
HB 410 focuses on hours absent instead of days absent, Overmeyer explained recently.
“One of the big differences is that the new law focuses on ‘hours’ absent instead of ‘days’ absent,” Overmeyer said. “The process starts upon a ‘triggering’ event.”
Overmeyer explained, a triggering event is when a student is absent without a legitimate excuse for 30 or more consecutive hours or 42 or more hours in one school month, or 72 or more hours in a school year.
“When any of these three things occur the child’s school district has 7 days to select the members of an ‘absence intervention team’ and must make at least three good faith attempts to secure parental participation on the team,” she said.
According to Overmeyer, if the parent fails to respond, there may be a mandatory reporting to Children’s Services. Within 10 days of a triggering event, the school district must assign the student to an absence intervention team.
Within 14 days of the assignment, she explained, the team must develop an intervention plan and within 7 days of developing the plan, the district must notify the student’s parents of the plan and the obligation of the attendance officer to file a complaint in court after a certain time period.
Overmeyer said the attendance officer must file a complaint, against the child and any person who fails to cause the child’s attendance at school, in court 61 days after implementation of the plan if the student has refused to participate in or has failed to make satisfactory progress on the plan or other alternative to adjudication.
“As part of the plan the district may request that the court have the student informally enrolled in an alternative to adjudication,” she noted.
“An act that contributes to an adjudication of a child as a delinquent child because of the violation of a court order with respect to truancy is a first degree misdemeanor, and a parent, guardian or custodian of an adjudicated truant child must provide a surety bond in the sum of not more that $500 to assure the child’s attendance,” Overmeyer said.
“We already have a truancy mediation program here in the Preble County Juvenile Court,” Overmeyer said via email. “We also partially fund a program that is largely doing what these ‘absence intervention teams’ are designed to do. We found some time ago that there are many reasons that children don’t get to school and that truancy is generally not the children’s fault. The program that the Court partially funds — the Success Program — attempts to ascertain the impediments to children’s attendance and provides services to remove such barriers. Some counties are not as fortunate to have the dedicated Success workers and school systems that we do, however, and this new law is aimed at them.”
The new law also prohibits punishing excessive absences with suspension, expulsion, or other means of prohibiting a student from attending school, according to Overmeyer. If a student is suspended for another reason, the district school board is permitted to allow the student to complete any classroom assignments.
The school district’s attendance officer has to notify a student’s parent, guardian, or custodian in the event the student is absent — with or without legitimate excuse — for 38 or more hours in one school month or 65 hours in a school year, she explained.
Aug. 26, 2017
NP celebrates 200th
NEW PARIS — The Village of New Paris was founded on Aug. 20, 1817, which made Friday, Aug. 18 its 200th birthday. To celebrate, the village came together for an ice cream social held at the park shelter at the old Jefferson Township School.
While that might not seem like much for a 200th birthday celebration, according to David Wesler, who is part of the Bicentennial Committee, there will be celebrations throughout the year, with the main one held during the Apple Fest.
“The committee decided that the best thing we could do was an ice cream social, get as many people as we could. Unfortunately, we are up against a lot of other events, the National Trail basketball game was tonight, there was school conferences, stuff like that — so we were up against a lot of other things. We didn’t know how many people would show up, we thought maybe 40 or 50, but I was just getting ready to count and it looks like there is several hundred here tonight.”
According to Wesler, everything for the ice cream social was donated — from the water to the ice cream. The celebration did not cost the village or visitors bureau anything. “There are many sponsors that we have to thank for that,” Wesler added.
This will not be the only New Paris Bicentennial celebration.
“After the Apple Fest, shortly after the parade, when we’re going to have some politicians around, they’ve been asked to do some proclamations,” Wesler said. “We’re going to have a short ceremony with proclamations and maybe some other things going on during the Apple Fest, but it’s going to be a really good celebration. It will be a very special celebration for New Paris for its 200th birthday anniversary. We’re just really excited for it.”
The committee held the ice cream social on the day they did because they felt the need to celebrate the actual day the village turned 200 years old. They wanted to have a large celebration during Apple Fest, but also didn’t want to miss out on the village’s actual birthday.
“It’s hard to understand 200 years ago, what all buildings were here, maybe not many, but it has grown since then and we have a lot of dedicated citizens here in New Paris that are looking to better the community,” Wesler said. “We have a nice village here and we can only hope to prosper in the future.
“We’re really looking forward to celebrate the rest of the year. There are so many events going on.”
Aug. 30, 2017
PCYF purchases land
EATON — On Wednesday, Aug. 2, the Preble County Youth Foundation purchased 6.499 acres located at the corner of Washington Jackson Road and Preble Drive from the Eaton Church of the Nazarene.
The purchase allows the Foundation, along with its partner Kettering Health Network, to control most all of the land to the north of Washington Jackson Road for future development by Kettering Health Network, the Foundation and its partners, Preble County YMCA and Sinclair Community College.
The Foundation developed the Medical Center, the Preble County YMCA, and Sinclair Community College over the last 13 years. The Foundation’s mission is to invest in programs and facilities that give our kids and our community better opportunities and a better future.
In addition to its development of the campus on Washington Jackson Road, the Foundation has given over $80,000.00 in scholarships. Annually, the Foundation has been awarding to Preble County residents, along with Kettering Health Network, $25,000.00 per year to Kettering College and $5,000.00 per year to Sinclair Community College. The Foundation has established an endowment fund at Sinclair Community College to ensure future scholarships.
Partnering with the Preble County YMCA, the Foundation has helped provide teen nights at the YMCA, triathlons at Lake Lakengren and other youth activities.
The Foundation was established in 1993 and is a 501C3 private foundation governed by a board of local citizens. Current active members of the Executive Board are: W.G. Dues, Founder and Chairman, Floyd Geeding, President, Mike Simpson, Vice President, Ellen Crammer, Secretary, Donald Pollock, Treasurer, Rodney Kreitzer, John Herring, and Brad Unger. Current active members of the board are: Dawna John, Theresa Via, Erin Barnes, Sam Shortes, Charley Pennington, Jane Reeder, Mary Christman, Rodney Creech, Dave Kirsch, Gary Moore, Cindy Ashworth, Robin Judd, Cathy Clift, Barbara Cox, Doug Ulrich, Jr. and Dawn White.
The Foundation is looking forward to working with the city, the county and local organizations to develop potential uses that fulfill the mission of the Foundation, which is to invest in programs and facilities that give our kids and our community better opportunities and a better future.
Hueston Woods celebrates 50th
COLLEGE CORNER — Hueston Woods hosted a celebration for the 50th anniversary of their lodge and conference center on Sunday, Aug. 27. The festivities featured a ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by an open house and pool party.
The afternoon began with an open house before the ceremony, where attendees were encouraged to look around the lodge. Then Regional Manager Tom Arvan took the stage to say a few words about the lodge and park.
“The lodge was initially dedicated on July 8 in 1967,” he said. “Certainly things have changed over the years, but it has been a gathering place for many people. Generations of families come for family reunions and various reunions. It’s truly a spectacular building with this design. It’s really something beautiful and the entire park is a great place to bring your family. We have so much to do. It really is a wonderful place.”
He added, Hueston Woods covers 3,600 acres, Acton Lake has 625 acres, there are 12 miles of hiking trails in the park, there are 92 rooms and 37 cabins at the lodge, there is a camp ground with 381 sites, an 18 hole golf course, a marina, a beach, and many other things for visitors to do at the park.
The celebration featured a pool party, free burgers and hot dogs, a Jet Ski simulator in the parking lot, free pontoon boat rides at the dock, disc golf exhibitions, and other activities.
Arvan added, “We are so happy again that you are here. We want you to enjoy everything there is at the park. Please feel free to look around, we’ve just completed a lot of renovations here in the lodge and around the park. Even for those of you who have been coming for years, I’m sure you’ll see a lot of changes.”
Ohio Director of Natural Resources (ODNR) Jim Zehringer took the podium to speak about his experiences and relationship with Hueston Woods.
“On behalf of Governor John Kasich, I want to welcome you to this 50th anniversary here at Hueston Woods Lodge,” Zehringer said. “This is one of the most popular lodges that we have in the State of Ohio. Being from the western part of the state — I’m from Fort Recovery — this is a place that a lot of families come for reunions or gatherings or anniversaries.
“Our daughter went to Miami University. We would meet here for lunch to get away from Oxford for a while and listen to how her year was going. We would walk on the trails and the beach and have dinner at the lodge. So this is a great place that brings back a lot of memories.”
Then he spoke about improvements which are upcoming and recently completed for the park.
“We are continuing to improve our state parks. We appreciate the governor allowing all these state parks to be free. You can go to any of our 70 state parks throughout the State of Ohio,” Zehringer said.
Trinity Lutheran servces 40,000th meal
LEWISBURG — Trinity Lutheran Church served its 40,000th community meal on Wednesday, Aug. 23, during an annual summer barbecue. The church has been hosting the Neighbor Night Ministry every Wednesday since 2009, an effort they began to combat a need in the community.
“This is a special meal for our neighbor night,” church member Lalah Kline said. “Our Neighbor Night meals have been going on since March of 2009. The reason we started was because of the economic downturn that started in 2008. We saw that people were really hurting in the community and as a congregation we wanted to do something to help them.
“Someone suggested doing a meal, because the previous fall Hurricane Ike had come through and many people in Lewisburg had lost their power for about a week,” Kline continued. “The church had power. A couple said, ‘We can cook and whoever wants to can come and eat.’ It worked really well, because people would bring food that was going to go bad in their freezer, they would bring it here, cook it, and serve it.
“After the hurricane was done and people got their power back, the spring came and we wanted to serve the community during the economic down turn. Someone suggested we serve meals again. We talked about doing it once a month, but somebody suggested once a week,” she added.
“We had a meeting on a Tuesday night, we discussed it, and everyone volunteered,” Kline said. “The next week, we served our first meal. We didn’t have a budget, plan, or committee, but we started and it has been going on every week since then.”
She added, for the past two Wednesdays, they didn’t hold the community night, due to preparations for the summer barbecue.
The food for the weekly meals is purchased with donations — nothing from the church budget pays for the Neighbor Nights. According to Kline, corporations like Cargill have stepped up to help sponsor the weekly meals.
Cargill is actually the moving force behind the summer barbecue. Every year, Cargill collaborates with the church to host a special Neighbor Night barbecue.
“They have an arm that has done some good stuff for the community. They call it the Cargill Cares Team,” Kline said. “For the last three years they have done a barbecue once a summer. This is it tonight. They are cooking — they’re grilling hamburgers, pork chops, and hot dogs tonight. The other food has come from other churches. “
Steve Hawley with Cargill Cares added, “I work for Cargill here in Lewisburg. Four years ago I got on a committee and it’s called Cargill Cares. We do things for the community through the schools, education, environment, agriculture, and nutrition – that’s what this is all about. This is community enrichment. Three years ago I got with Kline and they do this every Wednesday night. I came up with the idea to do a summer barbecue. Cargill approved it and I have three other employees out here helping me cook. This is what we do for community enrichment.”
“The barbecue brings the community out together,” Hawley said. “It shows that there is support in the community from the businesses and churches. The fact that we’re serving our 40,000th meal tonight is pretty incredible.”
“It seems kinda remarkable to me. I actually didn’t realize it until we set the date and I was counting out the people and I realized that we might hit that number during the barbecue. We’re really hoping that we will,” Kline added.
“This isn’t just for people in need, it’s for fellowship,” Hawley said. “Anybody can come. It’s for fellowship, not just for free meal. It’s for people to get together. There are people who don’t know each other in a little town like this.”
They did hit that milestone during the summer barbecue. They served their 40,000th meal to Lewisburg resident Joyce Myers. She attended the meal not knowing that the church was attempting to hit the extraordinary milestone.
“I came out to the dinner for friends, family, and church gathering,” she said. “I did not know they were trying to reach their 40,000th meal tonight — that was a nice surprise. It’s awesome. These meals are good for the community, because it gets us out, it gets us together, and provides us with supper all at the same time.”
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Brent Cavendish, pointed out, these meals also help those who are in financial need.
“These meals help for people who actually need food, they can come here on Wednesday and get a meal. Then they can go right down stairs and get food from the food pantry,” he said. “This is also a community gathering place. We have people here – kids, parents, and elderly folks. I always thought what I liked the most about it is that people share and get together. You’re not going to get people who live in the motel in any of these people’s homes, but tonight they share tables.
“People serve side by side,” Cavendish added. “That’s the part I like the most. Getting to the 40,000th meal served was quick. We just celebrated the 30,000th in 2015. We’re excited about it, because it shows that we’re really helping the community, but at the same time it is a comment that there are still people out there who need food.”
“While we at Trinity have been able to do the weekly meal more or less on our own in the past, we have lost several willing volunteers due to aging and other reasons,”Kline said following the event. “We always welcome help from anyone in the community.”
She added, anyone interested in helping should contact the church office at 937-962-2741 or the Parish Administrator at 937-336-2900.
Sept. 6, 2017
PC Commissioners visit White House
PREBLE COUNTY — The Preble County Commissioners attended a conference in Washington, D.C., at the White House, on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
The conference was geared toward creating a relationship between the White House, federal agencies, and Ohio county leaders. There were more than 80 Ohio county commissioners and county council members from 47 counties who accepted the same invitation.
The various commissioners and council members were able to meet with staff members from several federal agencies and were given a tour of the White House. The attendees welcomed the opportunity to share with the administration the current situation and concerns at the county level.
According to officials, a strong partnership between county and federal governments is pivotal in fighting the opioid epidemic, as well as addressing shared objectives such as improving infrastructure.
“We were extended an invitation from the White House — all of the county commissioners from Ohio — to visit the White House and then go through a briefing process,” Preble County Commissioner Chris Day explained. “We are the fourth state which has done this — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida have done this process. Typically they go through our associations, but they went directly to the commissioners this time. It started out with a tour of the White House and then we went into the briefing room. We spent seven hours there yesterday.”
Commissioner Denise Robertson added, “The Intergovernmental Affairs Office has all kinds of different departments and they all came in to talk to us about their role and their interactions with us, in opening the doors to contact them if we have any needs or problems.”
The briefing was held following the White House tour. According to Day, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was the first speaker they were supposed to hear, but he came in before they were ready to introduce Vice-President Mike Pence to the audience.
“He addressed us for about five minutes, very honest and then we proceeded on,” Day said. “There had to be almost 20 people. We heard from multiple agencies. They gave us their contact information – it was an outreach so we have a direct link to the White House. There were commissioners there who were having issues and when they spoke contact information was exchanged. It was an outreach to stay more accessible.
“Personally, I think it was a very good day. It was a great networking experience. We got to talk to a lot of people and their staff.”
“Monday night we were invited to NACo — which is National Association of Counties — and we were given an overview of what to expect. They gave us some policies that they Federal Government was enacting that could affect us at our level. They gave us an overview and an idea of some questions to ask,” Robertson added.
“The take-home for us and the residents of all the counties should be that Washington wants to work with us,” Commissioner Rodney Creech said. “I think in the past there have been walls between local, state, and federal. I was going into this wondering what we were walking into. To sit there and listen to the secretaries, the directors, and the department heads say for us to reach out to them if there’s a problem — the take home for me was that President [Donald] Trump and his staff want to work directly with us.”
Day added, “They want an open door policy. I felt that they were being transparent and willing to work with us. Hopefully this streamlines things. I felt it was very beneficial for us. I think it was eye opening for people in Washington, since our State represents the people. They realized that we’re the boots on the ground.”
“I think that one of the biggest thing is that people wonder why we’re going to Columbus or going to Washington. It’s not a vacation,” Creech said. “It is literally to gain relationships and connections with people so we can provide the best service to the county.”
Sept. 27, 2016
Miss Preble comes home
EATON — After years of hard work, Preble County Heritage finally saw its goal achieved on Saturday, Sept. 23, when the M4A3 Sherman Tank affectionately known as “Miss Preble” was hauled down Main Street in her welcome home parade.
The tank has found a new home at Fort St. Clair, where she was crane-lifted onto a cement pad built just for her.
The tank was given to the city in 1957 as a gift to honor veterans of WWII and those serving in the Korean War. Over the years it became a symbol of Preble County pride and honored all area veterans.
Unfortunately, the tank was taken away by the Ohio National Guard on April 18, 2012. Eaton native Tina Marker started Preble County Heritage with Eaton resident and veteran Ernie Root. Their goal was to save — and later bring back — the tank.
According to Marker, in September 2014 the Armory was sold and the efforts of Preble County Heritage slowed down, but they never stopped trying to get “Miss Preble” back. Now, with the support of Eaton City Council, the goal has been achieved.
To celebrate the occasion, Marker, along with the rest of Preble County Heritage, planned a homecoming parade. They invited all to participate and asked for those with military vehicles to sign up to be a part of the parade.
The parade went down Barron Street, onto Main Street, and stopped at the Main Street Bridge. There the first dedication ceremony was held. Following the ceremony, the parade continued down Main Street, onto Camden Road, and stopped to hook the tank onto a crane, placing Miss Preble onto her new home. There the second dedication ceremony was held.
Both dedication ceremonies were the same, as — according to Marker — the group wanted those gathered on the bridge and those gathered at the Fort to hear the speakers. They wanted to include everyone in the festivities.
“We knew we would have people gathered in both locations and traditionally we have always done military dedications on this bridge, so we wanted to make sure we did that,” she explained.
“This is a real great day, isn’t it? Can you believe this day finally come, Eatonians? Can you believe this day has finally come, Preble Countians? History is made today, because of the dedication and commitment of plenty of individuals. I want to take the time to say thank you to Tina Marker and Preble County Heritage,” City of Eaton Mayor David Kirsch said.
He then introduced Jonathan Flora, who not only graduated from Eaton High School, but is a veteran and current Walt Disney producer. He directed the “Miss Preble” video.
“It is an honor to come back here to my home town and be with so many friends, classmates, family members, and veterans. With me you get a six pack — and I’m not talking about my abs. I want you all to know that you are reaching coast to coast. I have some comments here that I would like to read from upper military, Washington D.C., and also Hollywood,” Flora said.
“This first one, ‘To the citizens of Eaton, thank you for your efforts to bring Miss Preble back to her rightful place. I am of the opinion that how a country and her citizens honor veterans defines them as a nation. I am honored to have served our country for close to 40 years. I have fought in numerous conflicts during that time. This monument is not only a tribute to those that have served, but is also a tangible demonstration of the patriotism of the people of Ohio.
“Thank you for your continued support of the military and their families. All of us wearing the uniform continue to serve because of all of you. We are blessed as a nation to have citizens such as yourself. God bless each and every one of you.’ That was from Major General Hutmacher who is Director of Operations for U.S.Special Operations Command.”
Next Flora read a statement from retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and former member of Congress Allen B. West.
“The importance of Miss Preble to stand here in Eaton today is a reminder of what is best about America. Miss Preble pays tribute to those who have served in the past and inspires future generations to take up their pose on freedoms rampart. History is not just something to be taught, it is something to be experienced. Be it good or bad, we must learn from it and we must grow from it.
“Years from now, young children will come to this place and their parents and their grandparents will tell them, not just of the original story of Miss Preble, but the story of today when you and the people of Eaton said, ‘Not on my watch.’ God bless all of you and thank you for honoring all of of veterans.”
From Hollywood, Flora read a statement from Joe Mantegna of Criminal Minds.
“I applaud all the men and women responsible for bringing Miss Preble back home. It is fitting that it took a small town in Ohio to remind the nation that the second we ignore history, we are destined to repeat it. Obviously, Eaton has not forgotten the sacrifices of America’s finest who throughout our history have helped insure the peace and freedom we so covet in this great nation. My hats off to you.”
Also from Hollywood, actor Gary Sinise sent a statement for Flora to read. Flora described Sinise as “the Bob Hope of this generation.”
He read, “To the citizens of Eaton and especially the veterans, active duty, and military families attending today, let me applaud all of you on a successful mission accomplished as you beloved Miss Preble returns home. Once again, local veterans can now pass on the story of this piece of American history to future generations. Perhaps, it will encourage young people to hear it and dig a little deeper into the importance into having a strong defense and the blessing and good fortune to have strong defenders who are willing to stand for the freedom of the world.”
The last statement that Flora read was from M.A.S.H. star Jamie Farr, who played Corporal Klinger in the drama.
“I am very sorry that I cannot be there with you on the occasion of Miss Preble coming home where she belongs,” Flora read. “I am proud to be a Buckeye, but even more proud to be a veteran of the U.S. Army and a veteran of the icon television series celebrating the great service of our officers and enlisted men and women of the medical corps in M.A.S.H.
“When my friend Johnathan [Flora] first told me about the tank being taken away I thought, ‘That’s too bad.’ When he told me the tank was a gift as a war memorial to the veterans of Preble County for their service and sacrifices in WWII and Korea, I said, ‘That’s just not right.’ I was happy and honored to lend my voice to help bring this treasure home.
“This tank, like so many other symbols of sacrifice that are made by our military, is a reminder of the price that is paid for freedom and the responsibility that comes with inheriting the many liberties that we have today. We, all of us, are the stewards of such symbols.”
Flora added, “I just wanted to, again, let you know how far you are reaching out with this. When Tina [Marker] first called me many years ago, I was shocked. Memorials and war memorials, particularly like ours, are part of our history. Changing or erasing ones history should never be an option. I am so very proud that while so many communities and states are tearing down memorials, Eaton is putting one up.”
Following the two dedication ceremonies, “Miss Preble” was placed in her new home, where she will stay for future generations to view and enjoy.
Oct. 4, 2017
Commission plans for Expo Center expansion
EATON — Preble County Commissioners continue to plan for an expansion on the Expo Center at the Preble County Fairgrounds, an addition which will be a destination location for weddings, conferences and other events.
The county has received a $400,000 grant this year from the state for the fairgrounds, money which officials have decided to use on the Expo Center. The plans for the building include bathrooms/showers, a kitchen area, and a large meeting room which could eventually be used for weddings and other formal events.
During the commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 13, commissioners met with architect Mike Carroll and fairgrounds manager Jim Shute. There the five reviewed plans for the building, and the commissioners asked Caroll to make minor adjustments.
Carroll returned with those changes to a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 20.
“It looks kind of similar, but I think this plan solves the issues we talked about last week and gets us to a point where I think you can understand what is going on,” he said, after presenting the new plans to the commissioners. “The things we talked about last time: the size of the kitchen, the ability to have storage, and the separation of restrooms to have two different sets.
“It makes sense to have them separate for two different events, but if you have one big event you can still use both sets. If you have 400 people they can still use either set,” Carroll said.
They reviewed all the changes, including the bathroom set up, location of doors, storage, and how to restrict access to the kitchens.
Commissioner Chris Day commented, “This is a great plan that will change two times before we get to the end.”
“Only two?” Commissioner Denise Robertson joked.
Carroll then presented the commissioners with two options (A and B) for “budgetary purposes.”
“On Option A the building is 65×150. It has room for tables and chairs for 450 people. That is what I showed you now. I’m going to tell you, that is the max,” Carroll said.
Commissioner Rodney Creech replied, “That’s 10 percent of our county, so I feel good with that.”
“Even with a stage area you could seat 350-400 people,” Day pointed out.
“With chairs only you could seat 900 people. That’s 20 percent,” Carroll added.
Option A would cost the county $1,400,000, which leaves $1,000,000 for the county to pay out after the grant money is used.
“That is for the building shell, plumbing and electrical rough-in, and concrete throughout,” Day clarified.
Carroll also prepared Option B for the commissioners to review.
“I really thought what I’d ought to do with Option B was give you a smaller version of this building,” he said. “I understood what you said last time and we’re looking to do as much as we can, but if you were to cut this building down to 100 feet in length, basically cutting 25 feet off on each side of the building, it takes your table and chair seating to under 300 people and you’re looking to up the cost $20 more per square foot.
“But it does get the shell construction cost down to $500,000.”
“So if we go with the larger version we’re looking at $1,400,000 with, to get everything on the ground with the shell, $719,500,” Day said. “Our primary focus would be getting the shell and figuring out how to move next.”
He then asked the commissioners if they would be interested in Option A or B.
“I think Option B is not an option,” Creech said. “I love to save money, but we have a goal we’re shooting for and Option A accomplishes that.”
The commissioners were in agreement.
Of the $400,000 grant the county received, there is $392,000 left to use toward the project.
“I think we need to pare it down, but we also need to talk about how we’re going to make up the difference,” Creech said. “I think it is a no-brainer what we’re doing here, but we do need to pay for it. This thing will be utilized a lot.”
Shute responded, “I would be surprised if we didn’t rent it out at least every weekend.”
“I think we’re looking at all together $750,000 in this first phase, without any contingencies,” Day pointed out. “Now, there shouldn’t be a lot of contingencies in this phase, unless there was something really unforeseen like with the soil. So, basically, we have $392,000 and we need $358,000. With the funds we have currently, we’re looking at a little less than a $360,000 shortfall.”
Creech added, “We only have two options: we can go out and get it or we can use it and hope to make it back. I think this is a huge investment from an economic development standpoint. This is a risk that is worth taking.”
“Have we given any thought of selling the building and naming it after the donor?” Shute asked.
“I think that is an option we need to explore,” Day responded. “Unfortunately, we have a concept and before we can sell it we need a little more detail. We have to do the investment to get to that point. I don’t have a problem with getting the drawings to get this done and while we’re doing this we can start selling it or at least getting it in front of the people.
“At this point we need to get the plans and keep pushing forward. As we get a little further along they can get us a rendering of what we’re looking at. Then you can go and talk to people.”
Nov. 15, 2017
Shawnee levy fails — again
CAMDEN — Residents of Preble Shawnee Local School District had the opportunity to vote on an income tax/bond issue for construction of new schools, for the third time on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The issue failed once again, this time by 4.96 percent according to unofficial results.
To vote against the issue, 1,734 residents turned out, while 1,570 voted for the levy which would have allowed the district to build two new schools.
The failed issue was discussed by the Preble Shawnee Board of Education and Superintendent Matt Bishop during a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 9.
“I think we need to discuss as a board where Preble County goes from here,” Board Vice-President Gary Rader said. “Those on this board feel that we have a need for upgraded or new buildings. I think we need to discuss where we go from here. We ran a levy three times and they came back and told us three times that this wasn’t what they wanted.
“I heard personally, from West Elkton and Gratis that they didn’t feel it was fair that Camden got to keep their elementary school. Gratis lost theirs and West Elkton is fixing to lose theirs, and they just didn’t think it was fair. I’m hearing a lot back that if we put the school in a centralized location, in one facility, then they would support it.
“I don’t know if we need to get an outside firm? I don’t know how we reach these people to get a poll and find out what they want.”
President Candi Fyffee interjected, “We did that in the beginning on the website. We put a Survey Monkey on there.”
“I think that what Mr. Rader said was appropriate. Three times we tried it and three times the community rejected it. I guess the important thing to realize is that you can’t read anything beyond that. Just because the community said no that that plan doesn’t mean that they will approve X, Y, or Z plan,” Superintendent Matt Bishop said.
“Survey Monkey is great, but there are 3,200 who voted in November and 4,000 something who voted in November last year. There are many people who don’t come to board meetings and don’t respond on Facebook who have a voice and vote. The more we can reach everybody, the more we can understand what they will support.
“I think everybody agrees that there is a need for something, but we have no clue right now. We need to find out what they will support, what it looks like, and financially what will they support.”
Bishop continued, noting in December he would bring ideas back to the board on what other districts have done in similar situations.
“In regard to that,” Fyffe said. “The board has already made a decision that West Elkton is closing, so we do know that.”
Bishop responded, “That resolution is all that has passed right now.”
“That can be rescinded,” board member Charlie Biggs pointed out.
“It can, but you need a majority and I don’t think you will have one,” Fyffe responded.
“I can speak to what I felt contributed to why it failed,” board member Jeff Wood said. “I don’t have the solution to what will pass, but like Mr. Bishop said, we need to do a lot of soul searching and there are a lot of people we need to bring to the table. There were three things.”
“The first thing was, and this is from working on the campaign and being on this side of the table too, one thing is the same with anything you’re trying that pass and that is taxes,” he said. “People don’t want to pay higher taxes. Even though we thought we were getting a very good value, we were paying for those taxes.
“Two, we lost big in Gratis and West Elkton. From talking to folks, we had trouble reaching them. They don’t like the idea of losing their hometown school and the tax revenue that comes with that.
”Three, we had a hard time getting people to get over the hump of the idea that the high school is in as bad of shape as it is. They still call it the new high school. They felt like there wasn’t enough age on it.”
“Again, I believe that was wrong-headed thinking, and I don’t meant to be insulting to anybody’s beliefs on that, but it was a very hard thing to overcome,” Woods added. “That was the three takeaways that I got from the three different campaigns.”
“I think that if takes us reaching out to someone to get a poll out there, that is the most important thing we can do at this point, just to get everybody’s take. First question you ask them is if they think we need new facilities,” Rader said. “If yes, what is the best solution?”
Dec. 16, 2017
County, city approve dispatch merger
EATON — Preble County Commissioners approved a combined emergency dispatch service agreement with the City of Eaton in a 2-1 vote during a meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 6.
Commissioner Denise Robertson was the lone “no” vote, and several city and county residents alike attended the meeting to share their opinions on the agreement.
While many are in support of the merger, some residents did not like the way it had been handled and thought the commissioners could have been more transparent.
Beth Cox was the first resident to speak during public comments.
“This whole dispatch merger reminds me of what is happening right now. We have a federal investigation on Russian collusion that originated from the infamous Russian dossier that has since been proven to be made up and proven false, but here we are on a trajectory with this investigation that was a complete waste time and tax payer money,” Cox said.
“Now the merger is not as serious as this, I admit, but let’s be sure we aren’t following the same pattern and rushing into something that may be unnecessary.”
She then asked four questions she hoped the commissioners could answer for her.
The first question asked if the dispatch merger stemmed out of a belief the state was mandating a change? The second, will the merger be efficient? How will it provide better services for the County tax payers? The third, since Eaton will be paying into the service for only three years — how will that portion be paid for at the end of the three years? Can they guarantee that there will not be a need for a levy at that point? Finally, the fourth question asked why the commissioners did not hold any public hearings on the merger.
Next Terry Willis took the podium. He said, “I just want to thank the commissioners for taking this 9-1-1 burden off of our hands at the City of Eaton. With all this new-found wealth I’m sure they’ll be willing to give the money back to us — oh no they won’t, will they? They’ll probably spend that money on something else, won’t they? You all will come back to us with a levy and say that you need money for the dispatch. I appreciate your effort, thank you.”
“I want to know what is in it for the City of Eaton, other than losing a huge expense and putting it on the backs of every property owner in Preble County, so that their burden is transferred to the county?” William York III asked.
“It would make more sense to operate two different dispatch places, in case one were to be damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster. Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, while the City of Eaton gets a free ride. If the City of Eaton wants to now, until the end of time, pay for their share of the dispatch expenses, that is fine — that is what they should do.
“Again, I want to know why the City of Eaton wants a free ride and to put all that burden on Preble County?”
“Guys, I want to echo what Beth [Cox] said. There should have been more public meetings. I checked the agendas and read [Commissioner Rodney Creech’s] comments on Facebook,” Jeff Golden said. “The question was asked where did the City of Eaton get this from? In 2015, Creech based it on a mandate and there was no mandate. He’s told us that it is coming down the line, but we are two-and-a-half years down the line and we have seen no mandate.
“Has that changed? Is there a date?”
Creech answered, “From my understanding it is 20 years. I did not make it up, Jeff. I wish I did.”
Golden reiterated that Creech brought this issue up in 2015 and based his reasoning on a mandate. Golden then brought up meeting minutes from an August commission meeting and said he took offense to Creech’s tone when he referred to people in the county as “uneducated” on the matter.
“As today, there are a lot of people who show up who do not have all the information,” Creech explained.
Nathan Hake took the podium and asked the commissioners how they previously announced public meetings on the dispatch merger. He asked if they had requested public opinions. Commission President Chris Day responded that the issue is discussed in the minutes and Creech added it had also been in the paper.
Hake then moved on to talk about the contract. Since the City of Eaton is only paying for three years, he asked if the contract was void after the third year or if it would continue after the three years. Day answered, once the county goes down this road the contract will go on with “perpetuity.”
Hake asked, “There is no opt-out clause, saying that you guys could walk out of this contract?”
“There is a portion of the contract that says we can opt-out if there is a hardship on the county,” Commissioner Denise Robertson answered.
“This county is heading for a tight budget already, without adding in $200,000 and possibly more,” Hake said. “I just don’t see the benefit to the county. I agree with the previous speakers. In today’s world, we live in a pretty dangerous world where crazy things happen. People walk into the Sheriff’s Department and shoot people. We had a guy walk in six or eight months ago who shot himself. Who is to say someone won’t walk into the dispatch center?
“I think it is causing more of a safety issue. The mandate you guys are talking of doesn’t apply to small counties. It more applies to larger counties like Montgomery or Hamilton County. When you have two dispatches it is not slowing things down — that is safety. I don’t think the Federal Government puts all their troops in one place.
“Has this contract been shared with the public at all? Do you have a copy of it here, we can all see?”
Robertson answered, “Unless there has been a public records request, there has been no eyes on this contract.”
“Lets keep in mind that Eaton is in Preble County,” Creech said. “I keep hearing the city and the county. You can request the contract and you can come in here against it, but for the last three years for every person who is in here I have talked to probably 50 to 100 people who are for this.
“So, I appreciate that you are against this. When I ran for this job I was told I wouldn’t make everybody happy. Here you are. We have tried to cross paths several times to go over numbers. We have all the data and information. The sheriff and chief are behind us. This makes sense. You can come in here and tell us that we are idiots and that is okay. I have all the information and I can tell you that Mr. Golden does not have all the information. I am an open book.”
“I think there should have been open meetings with their board and us here,” Robertson said. “We should not be the keepers of this information. Everyone in this room should know this information.”
“If you had public meetings, you could have avoided a lot of this,” Golden added.
“It is on your agenda to vote. Can you table this and distribute the information to the public?” Hake asked.
“We have to vote,” Creech answered. “We’ve already waited too long.”
Golden reiterated, he believed the issue should have been posted on the agenda so the public could have come into the meetings to discuss.
Later in the meeting, the topic came up again when it was time to vote on the contract.
“If this were a true partnership I would fully support this contract,” Commissioner Robertson said. “But since the intent of everybody involved is to move the burden of the city dispatch to the county budget in three years, I cannot support it. I’m perplexed as to why we would put the County in harm’s way fiscally by agreeing to take on the city’s obligation for non-emergency dispatch for free.
“We have never dispatched for them and their size and tax base justifies the separation. As they grow, their tax base will continue to grow — which is a great thing — but our expense with the dispatch will also continue to grow and put us further down the path of draining the county’s general fund.”
Creech responded, “I have been consistent since day one. The City of Eaton is in Preble County and I appreciate those who pay their taxes just as much as I do those who pay their taxes in Preble County. I have said that since day one and I still stand behind it. Why should a person who lives in the City of Eaton be penalized because they live in the City of Eaton? Why should they pay more than I do?
“I’ve met with other counties that want to do this, but their relationship between the city and county is so poor — Greenville, being one of them. They want to do it, but they don’t get along. I’m proud to be from a community that does get along. I look forward to working with the city — teamwork makes it great work. We will accomplish a lot more together than we would ever accomplish alone.
”To me, I am proud to be a part of this,” Creech continued. “We have been trying to do this for years. I wish this was my idea, because it is a no-brainer. We will be taking two inefficient operations and combining them to create one that is actually going to get the job done.”
Day added, “We’ve been talking for more than two years about the mandate they are going to require. I don’t know when they will act on that, but they will at some point in time. When we first started looking at this, one of the big issues was the under-staffing of two dispatch centers. We knew then that our dispatch center was understaffed, along with the City of Eaton. We just don’t have the people. We knew that was an issue and we knew we would need to correct that at some point in time.”
He further explained, when they began to look at the issue they were looking at a capital cost of $3.1 million, but with change in cost and technology that has changed. The cost now has decreased to $6,000 to $7,000 in capital costs.
“We knew that as a county that we would have to move forward either way. We started looking at a plan to put this in place. Some of the monies in the plan is not only helping the city, but every other emergency unit in the county, upgrade,” Day said.
“We’ve tried to come up with a plan that covers everybody in the county and covers them efficiently.”
There was further public discussion before commissioners held their vote on the contract. Commissioners Day and Creech voted in favor, while Robertson remained in opposition.