Seneca County Commissioners address ongoing problems in Seneca Regional Planning Office at Oct. 12 meeting
By Sheri Trusty
[Tiffin, OH – Oct. 12, 2023] — The Seneca County Board of Commissioners opened the Oct. 12 meeting by welcoming volunteers from Seneca County Master Gardeners, who gave updates on the organization’s positive impact in the county. They explained that, in Ohio, the Master Gardener program falls under the umbrella of OSU Extension, which gives the organization access to information and resources at a state level.
The women talked about the various services that Master Gardener volunteers offer to the public, including informational programs, plant sales and a resource phone number for gardening questions, which is 419-447-9722.
Commissioner Anthony Paradiso introduced Pressley Buurma, the new Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator with OSU Extension in Seneca County. Buurma, who brings a diverse agricultural background to the position, invited the public to a Bat Week Celebration at the Oct. 28 Tiffin-Seneca Farmers Market. She also announced a series of Planning for the Future of Your Farm workshops that will be held at Tiffin-Seneca Public Library in February.
Local attorney Gina Grandillo provided updates on the PIVOT program, a specialized docket of Seneca County Common Pleas Court. Adam Gillmor, Development Coordinator for Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership, announced that, thanks to the efforts of Downtown Tiffin Main Street Manager, Donna Gross, downtown Tiffin received an Honorable Mention at the Heritage Ohio annual awards ceremony for Best Main Street Committee Project for the Kris Kringle Market.
Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Bryce Riggs, and Stakeholder Relations & Marketing Manager, Marisa Stephens, announced that the chamber team won the chamber’s first ever RUBY Award at the Ohio Travel Association’s Conference on Travel. All total, the team brought five awards back to Tiffin.
Seneca Regional Planning Executive Director, Charlene Watkins, attended the meeting to address commissioners’ concerns about a sewer billing contract discrepancy and a neglected sewer tap fee. Commissioners questioned an unauthorized payment of $18,000 for administrative fees relating to the purchase of sewer billing software to Tyler Technologies. Watkins said the funds to pay the fees was previously appropriated by the commissioners, but Commissioner Paradiso said the funds were never approved. Paradiso said neither the commissioners nor County Engineer Mark Zimmerman were aware the bill was paid until months after the payment was submitted. Paradiso also questioned whether the funds were pulled from the operating budget or capital improvement budget. Watkins said she could not remember which budget she pulled the funds from. Paradiso asked Seneca County Administrator Barb Patterson to research the payments, and the commissioners will revisit the issue at the next Oct. 19 meeting.
In other business, the commissioners questioned Watkins on an unpaid $3,500 tap fee that was never charged to a new-construction homeowner. Watkins said health issues prevented her from following up on the issue last year, and she did not catch the mistake this year. She said her employees missed the mistake, as well. Watkins said she will make the homeowner aware of the fee and will work to secure the funds.
Commissioners expressed frustration over ongoing billing discrepancies in the Seneca Regional Planning office, as well as multiple late payment fees that necessitate court orders for payment.
In new business, commissioners approved various supplemental appropriations and approved three resolutions, including a resolution empowering the Seneca County Commission on Aging to apply for funds through the Healthy Aging Grant Program from the Ohio Department of Aging.