Commission Communications: Reflections on 7 years in office

By Ed Douglas

As I complete my seventh year as Presiding Commissioner of Livingston County, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on what we, as a County Commission have been able to accomplish during my two terms as Presiding Commissioner.

*FINANCIAL STABILITY: When I came into office the county had no real reserves and was struggling to maintain even basic services. For two years we worked on and put together a plan to the voters to increase our revenue through a much-needed sales tax increase. As a result, the County is now in a much more solid position with nearly $2 million in reserves or 20% of annual expense. This is a huge improvement from nearly zero reserves.

FULL TIME PROSECUTOR: The following year we went to the voters to ask them to make our prosecutor position full time. This did not require a tax increase and although there is a higher cost going to full time from part time, we have actually been able to more than pay for this position by maintaining the services of a very talented prosecutor who pays for himself through moving cases through the court system as quickly as anyone in the State which lowers our jail costs. Additionally, he is able to provide prosecuting work for the city of Chillicothe and Brookfield which produces revenue for the county. We recognized that a county our size and number of cases processed, that this position needed to be full time. With the support of the voters this became a reality.

REFURBISHING THE COURTHOUSE: The Court House is a beautiful building built in 1914 in the center of the county and downtown Chillicothe. Being over 100 years old, consequently it needed significant repairs. Many of the nearly 100 windows and doors were original. The exterior of the building had accumulated significant dirt and grime from many years of auto exhaust and dirt and consequently was extremely discolored. We spent nearly $1 million to do a total makeover which included a new roof, all new windows and doors, tuckpointing, electrical work, repaving the east parking lot and a complete power washing of the outside of the building.

IMPROVING COUNTY ROADS: We increased funding to townships by $200,000 per year, a 66% increase, to improve county roads. A program required each of our 13 townships to improve one to two miles of road to a higher standard than previously and then add to these miles each year while maintaining the previous miles improved from prior years. There are over 100 miles of county roads out of 600 miles that have been improved so far under this program.

HELPED LOCAL BUSINESS AND SCHOOLS AND HEALTH NEEDS THROUGH CARES ACT FUNDS: The County received $1.8 million dollars of Cares Act Funds in early 2020 to help offset the effects of Covid 19. We put together very quickly (possibly the quickest in State) a group that included the City of Chillicothe, the Health Center, Chillicothe Industrial Development Corporation, the Chamber, Main Street, local banks and area school systems among others to help determine needs. From that group, within 60 days of receiving the money we disbursed over $800,000 to over 100 local business and organizations that had been adversely affected. We also disbursed significant funding to the school systems and the health department to help with Covid needs. Local sales tax for 2020 was actually up in our City and County unlike many counties and cities that had decreases in sales tax and we believe our efforts to get money out quickly to those in need was a significant factor in that result.

INCREASED FUNDING FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT: Unlike some cities on the national level that have made efforts to defund the police, our county has actually increased funding to our Sheriff’s department significantly, including the addition of two new deputy positions as well as an upgrade in necessary equipment.

GRADUALLY IMPROVED WAGES FOR COUNTY STAFF TO HELP MAINTAIN A GOOD QUALITY STAFF: Seven years ago, wages for all positions were extremely low and gradually over the last seven years we have been able to address that in a way that makes our positions more competitive with other comparable jobs. Particularly in today’s labor market this has been extremely important in our effort to maintain a quality staff in all areas.

OTHERS ITEMS OF INTEREST:

*We developed and printed a professional brochure that has a history of the courthouse and the county.

*Additionally, we accepted as a gift to the courthouse a very valuable statue of a Native American which placed on the south side of the courthouse.

*We partnered with the City of Chillicothe in resurfacing Litton Road.

*From the beginning of my first year forward I wrote a periodic column for the newspaper called “Commission Communications” to keep the public informed as to items of interest regarding county government.

I am pleased with what has been accomplished so far with the help of many people including my fellow Commissioners, our County Clerk and all the elected officials. There is more to do. One of the most significant things going forward is the distribution of Rescue Act Funds. The County, City and School District have all received significant dollars and the prioritization of needs and ultimate distribution of these funds over the next several years will be very important.

I would like to thank the public for their support in helping me, our Commission and the all our elected officials these last seven years. Together we look forward to further service.