Tiffin, Ohio — The Seneca County Board of Commissioners received a positive update from Tiffin-Seneca United Way Executive Director Kari Steele Thursday morning, about a successful partnership to help those in need with CARES Act Funding.
In October, the commissioners made $1.25 million of its federal CARES Act funding available to several agencies, in an effort to get funding directly to those in the county negatively impacted by COVID-19 Tiffin-Seneca United Way was joined by , Seneca County Department of Job and Family Services, Tiffin Seneca Economic Partnership, Fostoria Economic Development Corporation and Great Lakes Community Action Partnership to administer programs to distribute these funds. The programs expired at the end of last year, but through additional funding from the city of Tiffin and several townships, almost $1.5 million was disbursed to county residents.
The United Way used about $219,000 of its $275,000 allocation to assist those in need in the community. Steele thanked the commissioners for partnering with her organization and explained that 154 people across 92 households were served by the United Way.
Assistance provided by the United Way includes help with utility bills, mortgage and rent payments, property taxes. The agency also provided $250 Kroger gift cards for transportation and food costs. The United Way worked with First Call For Help to provide much-needed services to people who were out of work due to COVID-19. The average household received three months of rent/mortgage assistance, allowing families time to improve their financial situation or helping them as they awaited unemployment payments, Steele said during her report.
Commissioner Mike Kerschner thanked Steele and her agency for the quick turnaround.
In other action, Kerschner introduced a draft of a letter that he proposed to be sent to Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Robert Cupp to formalize the board’s support for State Senator Bill Reineke’s Ohio Senate Bill 52, or the “Reineke Referendum.” The proposed bill would provide a vote or referendum for citizens on industrial-scale solar and wind projects.
The letter urges state legislators to support the bill, as it “does an excellent job of ensuring that the voices of the citizens are heard concerning solar and wind projects of significant scale and consequence.” The letter states that the bill would provide appropriate local control to those who could be most impacted by the projects. The board unanimously agreed to send the letter to state legislators.
In other business, the commissioners approved a resolution to amend the county’s indigent counsel fee schedule following a Dec. 22, 2020 opinion from the Supreme Court of Ohio.
According to the decision, cases in which indigent parents are facing the termination of parental rights via adoption proceedings in probate courts are eligible for indigent counsel reimbursement from the state. At the urging of the Ohio Public Defender’s Office, the board established indigent defense reimbursement rates in Seneca County Probate Court for $60 an hour, with a fee cap set at $1,000, in these types of cases. The decision is retroactive to Jan. 29, per a memo from the OPD’s Office.
Also during the session, Seneca County EMS Medical Director Dr. Mike Fitzpatrick addressed the board related to ongoing discussions to improve the county EMS system. He encouraged the commissioners to support the plan outlined by Emergency Services Director Ken Majors.
“I support Ken’s plan, please follow it,” he said. “If we hire four paramedics, we need two crews. By placing one unit in the east and one in the west, we would be able to cover Seneca County pretty completely.”
Another piece of Majors’ plan is to provide part-time assistance to volunteers, in addition to the paid crews.
Fitzpatrick told the commissioners that to be successful, paid personnel should be paired in crews and not sent to be teamed up with volunteers. Fitzpatrick also said it is not a good idea to allow two-person crews that include a firefighter-EMR.
“Firefighters may be great at firefighting, and they are wonderful people who sacrifice a lot … but they don’t know medicine and would be of limited help to EMTs or paramedics on runs,” he said. “It is analogous to me asking an electrician to do my plumbing.”
Fitzpatrick said a three-person ambulance crew that includes a firefighter-EMR as a driver would be more acceptable.
“I feel the best arrangement if we can afford it, is to have two paramedics and an EMT as a driver,” he said.
There are three levels of EMT certification (from least training to most): EMT-Basic, EMT-Advanced and Paramedic.
According to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, firefighter-EMRs (Emergency Medical Responders) have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide immediate lifesaving interventions while awaiting additional EMS resources to arrive.
During new business, the board approved:
- A $10,000 supplemental appropriation to the General Fund for other expenses.
- A $20,631.90 supplemental appropriation to the DRETAC Fund for other expenses.
- A $20,000 supplemental appropriation to the General Fund for indigent counsel, related to the previously mentioned change to reimbursable cases in the county probate court.
- $98,490 and $160,000 fund transfers from the General Fund to the Soil and Water Fund.
- Establishing the Impaired Driving Enforcement Program, the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program and the Drugged Driving Enforcement Program on behalf of the sheriff’s office.
- Setting Thursday, February 25th at 10:15 a.m. to receive sealed bids for the CR 56 and CR 38 superstructure replacement (prestressed box beams).
- The fiscal year 2021 Airport Improvement Program pre-application for airfield drainage improvements and Taxiway”C” pavement rehab at the county airport.
- The fiscal year 2022-2031 Airport Capital Improvement Plan.