EATON — The future location of Preble County’s Ohio State University Extension office was one topic of discussion during the county commissioners’ Monday, June 21, meeting.
Commissioners met with Extension Educator Christy Millhouse regarding the agency’s office and its pending move to a new location at the Preble County Fairgrounds.
Commissioner Adam Craft invited extension officials to the meeting to discuss how to expedite the move. According to commissioners, the Preble County Agricultural Society’s Senior Fair Board is ready to accommodate extension staff moving in.
Currently, the plan is to move OSU Extension into space in the PC Fairgrounds office building.
OSU Extension is currently located in the Preble County Professional Building located across from the courthouse on Barron Street, also known as the “courthouse annex.” The facility currently houses OSU Extension, the Preble County Development Partnership and several county offices.
“That didn’t mean it was permanent,” Commissioner Rachael Vonderhaar said of discussions regarding relocating OSU Extension in the fairgrounds’ office building. “That was where we had going into fair, because you’ll need your space over there for fair anyway.”
“So for us, it’s a matter of a schedule of clearing out the annex building over here so that we can dig into it,” Vonderhaar said of plans of remodeling the annex building to move in additional county offices. The Preble County Development Partnership has a planned move into a facility currently housing the offices of the Preble County Chamber of Commerce.
OSU officials have to schedule the university’s technology group to do the wiring and installation necessary for the Extension Office in its new location. Vonderhaar explained the PCDP was looking at a September-October time frame for being out of the building.
Millhouse explained a working kitchen would be needed for an individual who works with the SNAP food program and prepares food, currently in a small kitchen in the annex building, and meets with small groups.
Vonderhaar suggested the possibility of being able to use kitchen space at the Mental Health & Recovery Board’s facility, or finding out if he could potentially use the currently closed Bistro at Eagles Point, until a commercial kitchen is completed at the Preble County Fairgrounds Expo Building.
Millhouse questioned what a possible timeline for a permanent OSU Extension location might look like.
“At this point, we need to put together what the plan is for the county going forward,” Vonderhaar said. Noting a past needs assessment the board had seen, she added, “With this group of commissioners, I think we see our needs a little different.”
According to Vonderhaar, she had the opportunity at a recent advisory meeting to have a discussion regarding what the needs of Preble County are related to OSU Extension.
One example, she noted, is the PC Educational Service Center’s Career Connections Director.
“When we look at a position like what Harold Niehaus is doing between the schools and helping our young people figure out their paths — our schools are funding that with Henny Penny currently — and that is something we need to accomplish. It is, by definition — what it’s doing youth-wise — something that can fall into the description related to youth under OSU Extension,” she said. “So I think there’s more of these conversations that we need to have as a community about what we expect from our extension office, to make sure that we’re headed the right direction.”
She continued, “I’ve shared the needs assessment you provided with a few groups of people. And I think the community would like to have more participation and conversation related to the needs of Preble County and that’s kind of where I see us going before we make a decision related to ‘where does OSU Extension land in Preble County?’ It’s going to have to do with what type of services are being provided, as to where it lands. So, until we know what the community’s asking for, there’s not a good way to put a timeline on that, or the location of it, would be my thoughts.”
“Whenever I have presented this, the individuals are saying, ‘Why hasn’t this happened before? Why is OSU Extension, kind of in this little corner in this annex building? Why wasn’t it moved out there to begin with?’” Commissioner Craft added.
Extension officials are concerned the agency has enough meeting room space to meet with everything “from camp counselors to extension advisory council to whoever, and enough office space to meet those needs.” Another concern is consistent internet service.
A new Junior Fair building is being constructed, and will have a Junior Fair Office housed inside, according to commissioners, opening up additional space in the office building.
“I think the sooner we start transitioning the better, because then we kind of get it figured out around the Ag Society, the fair, and what they need where,” Vonderhaar said of the timeline. “I’m not saying that it’ll all be moved before fair, but we start making those shifts so then after fair it makes it easier to just finish up.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr