Commissioners discuss CDBG funds, financial concerns

By Kelsey Kimbler -

EATON — The Preble County Commission office sent out an email to all applicants for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funds recently to see which entities are still interested in proceeding, despite financial concerns due to COVID-19.

Commission Clerk Kim Keller discussed the situation with the Preble County Commissioners during a meeting on Monday, April 6. She first asked if they had a chance to look at their rating sheets for the CDBG projects. The board responded they did not have the opportunity.

However, before they evaluated the projects, Commission President Denise Robertson wanted to discuss whether they should apply for both Critical Infrastructure projects or just one, to save the commission staff work with Keller retiring.

“We’re allowed to apply for two Critical Infrastructure grants, but with Kim retiring, do we want to put two on our staff or maybe let them concentrate on getting one done as well as they can and not put two on them?” Robertson asked.

Commissioner Chris Day countered, it would be the “same type” of work to do two projects and he doesn’t want to risk losing money for Preble County.

“I hate not to capture money coming to the county. If that means we have to get additional assistance for some of the paperwork, we can do that, but I would hate not to go after the money that is available and not bring it back to the county,” Day said.

Keller said, “It is more work upfront getting everything, because it is competitive. You have to really work your application.”

She added, CDBG applications might not be a focus for many applicants in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Day agreed, noting some entities may have to “pull back” not knowing their fund availability in the future.

“I don’t know whether any of our villages have thought about that either,” Keller said.

According to Day, they’re looking at potentially 20 percent reduction of revenue and 35 percent reduction on gas tax.

“We need to have a real conversation and a meeting with the folks who have applied,” he said.

He added, the applicants could provide supporting data for the projects, to help Commission Staff with the application process.

“I think it is a good idea. We should call them in and [ask] if they’re still comfortable with what [they’ve] applied for, because some of them might just withdraw,” Robertson said.

There were six allocation projects and two Critical Infrastructure projects interested in receiving CDBG funds. According to Keller, if the county applied for both Critical Infrastructure projects, they would also award allocation funds to those entities to help leverage projects.

Day reiterated, he believes they need to communicate with the interested parties and even potentially hold a meeting to discuss the financial questions COVID-19 may have created. Robertson suggested sending an email to ask if the entities are still interested and if so invite them to a meeting to discuss. Keller asked if she should pick a time for the meeting and the board agreed.

In other business:

•Commissioners discussed having a conversation with elected officials regarding the potential loss in revenue and how that would affect the various departments.

“I don’t want to do a knee-jerk here, but I think everyone has to be aware that we’re going to see a reduction. If you see a reduction of 20 percent in our budget, we’re at two and a half million loss of revenue,” Day said.

Commissioner Rodney Creech added, Auditor Lavon Wright sent out an email telling everyone to “hold tight.”

“The Budget Commission had a meeting. I think everyone understands what’s coming,” he said.

Day added, they have a cash balance, but he is afraid this isn’t going to be a “short term fix.”

“If this pushes out longer, you’re going to see loss of businesses, you’re going to see people not coming back,” he said. “I think we need to be proactive on this and start looking at — like I said, the projections early on, and both of these projections were over a month ago from CCAO and the County Engineer’s Association also, they were looking at a 35 percent reduction in gas taxes and I’ll bet it is going to be more than that as this is being pushed out.

“I think we probably need to have a discussion among us on how we want to approach this and then have the elected officials in.”

Creech suggested sending a letter out, since Auditor Wright has already “touched on it.”

•County resident Jerry Wick spoke regarding what he feels is a “violation” of the health department. He claims work is being done at the trailer park located in Glenwood, without there ever being a permit filed. From Preble County Public Health, he requested drawings, permits, plans, and documents concerns work being at the trailer park. He received a response saying there are no permits, drawings, or plans for work being done between Jan. 1 and March 12.

“What [the trailer park has] done — and I didn’t bring any photos, but I sent photos to the health department in my request — the sewage that was running on the ground, they’ve now brought a tile underground to the ditch, so no one can go out there and photograph the contamination, it is going right in to the ditch,” Wick said.

He added, he is upset the mobile home park owner did not get a permit and when inspected, the health department, according to Wick, only found that “sheds were too close to the trailers.”

“Then they go, ‘Note: recent work has been done to the existing sewage system.’ Even the corrupt Ohio EPA has said there’s no sewage system out there. I understand you’re saying there is nothing [you can do], but this is happening on your watch and no one in this county is making the board of health accountable,” he said.

Commissioner Robertson noted the report he shared was the Manufactured Home Park Inspection Report and asked if Preble County Public Health did the inspection. Wick explained, according to his research, the Mobile Home Park Commission can ask county health officials to perform the inspection for them.

He added, he was told he cannot file charges on the health department. It was suggested he call the Preble County Sheriff’s Office to file a police report. He said he would also bring the sheriff to his property to look at the sewage in his yard.

The commissioners:

•Authorized a payment of $2,292.92 to the Preble County Landfill.

•Noted receipt of and approved by signing an amendment to the Child Placement Agreement with Necco Inc., increase amount, $40,000, for Children Services.

The Preble County Commissioners meet every Monday and Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the Preble County Courthouse, unless noted otherwise.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH