Commissioners to discuss rural broadband initiative, host ditch hearing Thursday
[Tiffin, OH – Sept. 23, 2021] — The Seneca County Board of Commissioners announced Thursday morning that it is teaming up with the Tiffin-Seneca Economic Partnership to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to find a business to develop a strategic plan for rural broadband infrastructure in the county.
TSEP President and CEO David Zak said his organization is coordinating the RFP and facilitating the newly-created Rural Broadband Taskforce, which will evaluate proposals. The RFP closes at 5 p.m. on Oct. 25th. You can view the RFP document at senecabroadband.org.
Commissioner Anthony Paradiso, who has been involved with the planning process, said it is important for the future of the county to increase broadband access for all.
“We have been working on this for months, meeting with elected officials, school districts, and private providers, to determine a path forward and potentially to access new state and federal funds that can be used to expand broadband. This is incredibly important for the future of education, small business and economic development in the townships and villages of Seneca County,” he said.
The Rural Broadband Taskforce includes about 30 public officials, education leaders and private broadband representatives. The group will evaluate proposals, select finalists to interview and select the best firm. During Thursday’s session, Paradiso said the county is being asked to fund the strategic plan study after a firm is chosen.
TSEP President & CEO David Zak praised the Commissioners for being proactive, saying “Strategic plans are an excellent way to determine where best to invest public funds and an excellent way to position yourself for grant funding.”
In other business, the commissioners denied the request to vacate a portion of Continental Street (Township Road 198A), which is in section 24 of Hopewell Township. The decision follows a public hearing last week and the recommendation of County Prosecutor Derek DeVine and County Engineer Mark Zimmerman.
Both DeVine and Zimmerman previously told the board that it is not legal to vacate this portion of the street because it would landlock a parcel owned by the city of Tiffin. Tiffin officials visited the public hearing last week to urge the county to deny the vacation because there is a retention pond in the area that has been improved by the city, helping with a flooding issue. The city mows and maintains the area and crews need to have legal access. This access would be denied if the pending vacation had been approved.
Hopewell Township officials asked the commissioners to vacate the portion of the street, and surrounding property owners offered mixed opinions on the matter. The area is grassy and has trees and shrubs. Zimmerman said a vacation request for the same area was explored in 1996, but never moved forward due to the same obstacle: a parcel may not be landlocked as a result of a street vacation.
In other action, First Insurance Employee Benefits Consultant Kim Bond visited the meeting via Zoom to discuss the recommendations of the county’s health insurance advisory committee, of which she is a member. Bond said the committee recommended renewing with the County Employee Benefits Consortium of Ohio for a three-year contract. The renewal rate beginning in 2022 is to see no increase or decrease compared to last year’s rate The committee also recommended no change to current rates and keeping county and employee contributions the same. The committee also recommended a premium holiday for employees in November 2021, for two pay periods. Bond also said the committee recommended renewing with Guardian for basic life/AD&D, voluntary life, dental and vision plans.
The commissioners approved all recommendations but abstained on the decision for the county to match HSA contributions ($750 for single and $1500 for family plans) until later this year when the budget picture becomes more clear.
During new business, the board approved all resolutions and appropriations from the pre-meeting release.