Kathleen Williams

October 17, 2018

Mussel collection a success as dam is breached in Williamsburg

WILLIAMSBURG, Ohio (Oct. 17, 2018) – The work was slimy but rewarding: More than 60 volunteers collected hundreds of mussels on Saturday, Oct. 13, during a dam removal project in the Village of Williamsburg.

The dam, on the East Fork of the Little Miami River, was built in the early 1930s as part of a local water works plant that supplied drinking water to residents. The plant was closed in 2003, and the dam was no longer needed. The Clermont County Soil & Water Conservation District joined with the Village of Williamsburg

An example of the mussels collected.

to remove the dam this autumn to return the rivet to its natural state.

On Saturday, the dam was breached at 7:30 a.m., lowering the river level upstream and exposing hundreds of mussels along the river banks. Volunteers, coordinated by Environmental Solutions & Innovations, worked on both sides of the river to collect more than 500 mussels in the project area.  Breaching the dam and relocating the mussels are the first steps in the process; eventually the dam will be completely removed and stream restoration will begin.

“We encountered one problem — the mussels were so large that they overwhelmed the holding tanks and caused us to quit counting and just start relocating them as fast as we could,” said Warren High, a senior biologist with Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions. “We were unable to measure, weigh, and mark the mussels as planned due to the large number and size; a problem we were pleased to have had.” The East Fork of the Little Miami River has a well-documented diverse mussel population, including the rayed bean (Villosa fabalis), a state and federally endangered mussel.

Most of the mussels were moved upstream in the East Fork of the Little Miami River, but some were moved to the Mill Creek in Hamilton County to help replenish extinct mussel populations. “This is the first inter-basin mussel relocation to occur in Ohio,” High said. The mussels relocated to the Mill Creek included the white heelsplitter, fat mucket, and floater species, all of which have a higher tolerance for pollutants commonly found in urban streams.

In addition to the mussel relocation, volunteers also assisted with honeysuckle removal and planting shrub and tree seeds along the newly exposed banks. Old Firehouse Brewery helped sponsor the event. “We’re pleased to see so much community support for this project and we’re eager to see the river returned to a more natural state,” said Williamsburg Mayor Mary Ann Lefker.

In the coming weeks, crews will work to fully remove the dam and install restoration and bank stabilization features to complete the project. More information can be found on the Clermont Soil & Water Conservation District website: https://www.clermontswcd.org/williamsburg-dam-removal/.

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October 16, 2018

Clermont County Opiate Task Force urges no vote on Issue 1

BATAVIA, Ohio – The Clermont County Opiate Task Force voted to oppose Issue 1, a proposed constitution amendment that would change drug sentencing laws, at its meeting on Oct. 11.

Although the Opiate Task Force supports sentencing reform, it believes that amending the constitution, instead of going through the Legislature, is the wrong way to do this.

The task force is comprised of stakeholders representing county government, agencies and the courts (Commissioners, Clermont County Public Health, Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board (MHRB), Municipal Court Probation, Common Pleas Court Probation, Public Defender, Children’s Protective Services, County Sheriff); Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services; Clermont Mercy Hospital; law enforcement and fire/EMS departments; faith-based organizations and private citizens.

At the meeting, a panel including Common Pleas Judge Jerry McBride, Assistant Prosecutor Darren Miller, Sheriff Steve Leahy, Commissioners Ed Humphrey and David Painter, and Karen Scherra, Executive Director of MHRB, spoke out against Issue 1 and detailed the impact it would have on the county courts, law enforcement and the County Jail, and taxpayers.

Issue 1 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would, among other things, reduce drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, prohibit jail time for any such offenses unless it is the third offense within 24 months, and reduce sentences of those in prison for any crimes other than murder, rape or child molestation by up to 25% if the individual is enrolled in programs in prison.

Among the drugs it would reduce penalties for is fentanyl, an extremely dangerous opioid that has been responsible for a number of deaths in Ohio. Under Issue 1, anyone caught with less than 20 grams of fentanyl would face a misdemeanor instead of prison time. A lethal dose of fentanyl can be as small as 2 milligrams; 20 grams could kill thousands of people.

The Clermont County Prosecutor’s Office and Municipal and Common Pleas Court judges are concerned that the broad language in Issue 1 would eliminate sentencing discretion for judges.

Common Pleas Judge Jerry McBride noted that both Municipal and Common Pleas Court judges work with lesser offenders to get them into treatment instead of jail or prison. “The reality is that less and less low-level offenders go to jail every day. For years, the emphasis has been on treatment,” he said.

“Long-term treatment is necessary for many drug users, and Issue 1 will make it more difficult for the criminal justice system to get drug users into long-term treatment. Issue 1 will eliminate the ability of courts to punish users of dangerous drugs who refuse to stay in treatment and who are a risk to the community,” Judge McBride elaborated.

In addition, Issue 1 would prohibit the courts from sentencing anyone on community control – popularly known as probation – to prison for probation violations, unless that person has committed another felony. “That effectively means that a person sentenced to community control for a felony can refuse to do anything, including participate in treatment, once placed on community control and the court has no real recourse,” Judge McBride said.

Proponents of Issue 1 say that the millions of dollars that will be saved by having fewer people in prison will be funneled into treatment at the local level. However, an analysis last week of Issue 1 by the Ohio Office of Management & Budget disputes that. The report says that the prisoner reduction will not be as large as predicted, and that county municipal courts and jails will end up shouldering many more costs. Fewer people in prison will mean more people in jail, said Sheriff Leahy, a cost that will be borne by county taxpayers.

Karen Scherra of the Mental Health & Recovery Board said that although her board is in favor of legislative reforms, it opposes Issue 1. “We do not see treatment increasing under Issue 1,” she said. “It’s often the stick of criminal justice that gets people into treatment.” She noted that her board has worked closely with county partners in criminal justice as well as the Commissioners to come up with initiatives in the battle against the opioid problems in the county. “If this passes we will watch a system that we worked really hard to build up collapse,” she said.

On Oct.3, the Clermont County Commissioners passed a resolution opposing Issue 1. Also opposing Issue 1 are the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Ohio Bar Association, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, and the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities.

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October 11, 2018

Auditor Office to begin digital imaging project countywide

BATAVIA, Ohio (Oct. 10, 2018) — The Clermont County Auditor’s Office is pleased to announce as part of the countywide reassessment project that Tyler Technologies, Inc., of Dayton will provide detailed, high-resolution street level images. Tyler Technologies’ field staff will photograph properties throughout the county from customized white vans that will be clearly marked with signs indicating that they are conducting an imaging project for the county. This imaging project will begin the week of Oct. 15, 2018, and continue into February 2019.

All personnel assigned to this project have been issued photo identification badges that will be visible at all times. Local law enforcement have been notified of van descriptions and their locations. All photographs are taken from public right-of-way whenever possible, but it may be necessary to pull into driveways to get an unobstructed image. No images will be taken of homeowners or children when present on residential properties, and license plates and open garages will be blurred from images.

“The countywide reassessment process is an in-depth review of every property in the county,” said Clermont County Auditor Linda L. Fraley. “Tyler Technologies will provide our county with accurate up-to-date property images and data so that our reviewers have the best information available to them to make an assessment that serves constituents fairly and equitably.”

Ohio Revised Code requires that all real estate in a county be viewed and reappraised every six years.

The digital imagery project will correct up-to-date property information improving the overall quality of the county’s real estate data, and save taxpayers money by making the property tax administration process more efficient. It will also assist homeowners with “before” photos in case of loss and validate property addresses to identify homes for fire, police and medical emergency response. All attributes of this project ultimately are to ensure fair and equitable property values.

Your cooperation in this important project is appreciated. For more information, please visit our website www.clermontauditor.org or contact the Clermont County Auditor’s Office at 513.732.7150.

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October 4, 2018

Commissioners approve property tax exemption for Metal Systems

BATAVIA, Ohio (Oct. 4, 2018) – Metal Systems F&E LLC will expand its operation in Miami Township, adding six employees and a 14,000-square-foot building under the terms of an enterprise zone agreement approved Oct. 3 by the Clermont County Commissioners.

Metal Systems, which fabricates building materials, will invest $1.3 million in its expansion. As part of the Enterprise Zone Agreement approved by the Commissioners and the Miami Township Board of Trustees, Metal Systems was granted a tax exemption on real property improvements of 60% for 10 years.

Metal Systems will retain its current 15 positions with an annual payroll of $750,000. It plans to add another six positions over the next three years for an additional payroll amount of $180,000.

Metal Systems will save approximately $16,000 in property tax. It expects to begin construction later this month.

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October 3, 2018

Clermont Commissioners urge no vote on Issue 1

BATAVIA, Ohio (Oct. 3, 2018) – Clermont County Commissioners today (Oct. 3) passed a resolution opposing Issue 1, a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would change drug possession offenses to misdemeanors and eliminate prison and jail time for most drug possession offenses.

Commissioners noted that Clermont County Common Pleas Court judges opposed Issue 1, which they believe would lead to more illegal drug use in Clermont County, and remove any sentencing discretion they have.

Commissioners also believe that Issue 1 would lead to a greater strain on county resources and become more of a tax burden on its residents. Although Issue 1 says that the money saved by reducing the number of offenders in state prisons would be directed toward treatment, the mechanism for doing that is unclear, and Commissioners believe that responsibility would fall to local governments.

“Issue 1 will lead to many unintended consequences in Ohio if voters approve it,” said Ed Humphrey, President of the Board of County Commissioners. “We do believe that the State of Ohio should put more resources toward drug treatment and rehabilitation but we do not believe that Issue 1 is the proper means to achieve that.”

Among those opposing Issue 1 are the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Ohio Bar Association, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, and Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.

“Ohio may end up with some of the most lenient drug crime laws in the nation if this proposed constitutional amendment passes,” Justice O’Connor said. “Our state could easily become a magnet for substance abuse activity because there will be, in effect, very little criminal justice consequences to engaging in such behavior.”

Commissioners urged Clermont County voters to vote no on Issue 1. The General Election will be held Nov. 6.

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October 2, 2018

County animal shelter expands evening hours

BATAVIA, Ohio (Oct. 2, 2018) — The Clermont County animal shelter is changing its hours to make it easier for customers to stop by after school or work.

The new hours, which will begin the week of Oct. 8, are:

Wed: Noon – 7 p.m.
Thu: Noon – 7 p.m.
Fri: Noon – 7 p.m.
Sat: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sun:  11a.m. – 5 p.m.

The shelter is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The animal shelter is operated by the Clermont Animal CARE Humane Society. Since Clermont Animal CARE began managing the shelter in January, it has taken in 48% more dogs and 104% more cats compared to the same period last year.

Its Live Release program, which includes adoptions, transfers and returns to owner, is up 43% for dogs and 66% for cats. “We have expanded our traditional fostering program to include a ‘Let’s Do Lunch’ and other short-term fostering options to give the community a chance to help in a fun yet important way by giving dogs a chance to get out of the shelter without any long-term commitments,” said Executive Director Carolyn Evans.

Clermont Animal CARE is adding services and resources as part of its commitment to being a pet resource center for the community. It has helped pet owners who are facing financial difficulties with temporary food and housing assistance for pets. The humane society is also working with the UCAN Spay/Neuter Clinic to get owned pets and community cats and neutered. The surgery fee for dogs is $75.

Two spay/neuter specials are available through the end of the year. Cats are just $20 for Clermont County residents, and pit bulls are free, through Dec. 31. UCAN offers free round-trip transportation from the animal shelter the fourth Tuesday of every month. If interested, people should call UCAN directly to schedule at 513.762.0130.

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September 27, 2018

Shaw Farms to be recognized Oct. 11 as ‘Bicentennial Farm’

BATAVIA, Ohio (Sept. 27, 2018) – Shaw Farms in Miami Township will be recognized as an “Ohio Bicentennial Farm” on Oct. 11 by Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels. This extraordinary designation identifies Shaw Farms as being owned and operated by the same family for over 200 years.

Founder Thomas Shaw moved to Clermont County from Bucks County, Pa., in 1807 when he purchased 68 acres in Miami Township. The following year, Shaw purchased an additional 63 acres from none other than Gen. William Lytle, who some recognize as the “Father of Clermont County.” Thomas’ son, James Shaw, purchased the current property in 1834. His son, William, helped run the farm until he was captured during the Civil War and died at the notorious Andersonville prison camp.

Today, Shaw Farms is run by members of the family who are six to eight generations removed from the founder, and is led by matriarch Jean Shaw, who at age 87 still works full days at the farm. The future of the farm is in good hands, with ninth- and tenth-generation children living and playing on the farm. Shaw Farms is perhaps best well known for the produce they sell and their annual Fall Festival, which includes a corn maze, an interactive playground, hayrides and more. This year’s festival runs through October.

Director Daniels will present the Ohio Bicentennial Farm designation at Shaw Farms (1737 SR 131, Milford, OH 45150), at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11. This event is free and open to the public. No registration is required. For additional information, contact the Clermont Soil & Water Conservation District at 513.732.7075 ext. 3. For more information on Shaw Farms, visit its website at www.shawfarms.com.

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September 26, 2018

South Afton Industrial Park earns SiteOhio authentication

BATAVIA, Ohio (Sept. 26, 2018) – Clermont County’s South Afton Industrial Park has been certified a SiteOhio Industrial Site by JobsOhio, meaning it has JobsOhio’s imprint as a site “ready for immediate development on day one.”

South Afton is the first industrial park in Southwest Ohio to receive the SiteOhio authentication. It joins 12 other industrial sites throughout Ohio. South Afton comprises 242 acres at Half Acre Road and State Route 32 in Williamsburg Township. Its first project, a distribution facility for upscale furniture manufacturer Design Within Reach, is expected to open next spring and will employ 85 people.

To obtain the authentication, Clermont County had to complete a number of investigative studies as well as install infrastructure on the site. The county began working to accomplish this in 2016, the year it purchased the property. The infrastructure included 2,000 linear feet of road, water main and sanitary sewers, storm water infrastructure, a natural gas line, and conduit for electric, telecom and fiber. All told, the county has invested $2.5 million in infrastructure at South Afton.

The studies included an environmental Phase I report, a geotechnical report, a historic and cultural resources report, a wetlands study, and an endangered species study. Detailed information had to be provided on utility excess capacities, including water, sanitary sewer, natural gas and electric. Duke Energy worked closely with the county on the site.

“The SiteOhio process required Clermont County to meet some very exacting and tough standards,” said Ed Humphrey, President of the Board of County Commissioners. “This authentication will tell potential companies that seek us out that we are serious about providing the best environment possible for their expansion.”

Kristi Clouse, JobsOhio Executive Director of Operations, said, “The SiteOhio Authentication provides businesses the confidence that they can invest in Clermont County successfully on day one. The South Afton site is the first in Southwest Ohio to receive this distinction, and we are excited for the opportunities it can bring to job creators looking to grow in Williamsburg Township.”

JobsOhio began its SiteOhio authentication program in 2016. It hired InSite Consulting Group to evaluate industrial park sites around the state to determine if they met the standards for being included in the SiteOhio program. InSite said South Afton has great potential. “The South Afton Industrial Park is one of the top industrial parks in the Midwest,” said Rob Cornwell of InSite Consulting. “When you combine Clermont County’s great economic development team with the Site Ohio authentication program, the Design Within Reach location is the first of many more to come.”

“Clermont County has become a model for site competitiveness in Southwest Ohio by investing for long-term success,” said Kimm Lauterbach, President & CEO of REDI Cincinnati. “With the creation of the South Afton Industrial Park, Clermont County will be attracting new businesses to build, invest, and create jobs in our region for years to come. As the first site in Southwest Ohio authenticated through the SiteOhio program, we look forward to seeing more companies grow in Greater Cincinnati.”

Andy Kuchta, Director of Clermont County Department of Community & Economic

Development, added, “Some prospective clients that come to JobsOhio won’t even look at a site unless it has been authenticated as SiteOhio. With the SiteOhio authentication, South Afton Industrial Park will have even more appeal to businesses looking to expand or relocate.”

About South Afton Industrial Park: South Afton is a 242-acre industrial park at the southeastern corner of State Route 32 and Half Acre Road in Williamsburg Township. The land was purchased by the Clermont County CIC in February 2016 for $4.9 million, using proceeds from the Ivy Pointe development in Union Township. An economic impact study by the Economics Center of the University of Cincinnati estimated that the industrial park would eventually create more than 1,800 direct jobs and more than 1,600 indirect jobs. Read more here: http://cincinnatiohioindustrialpark.com/.

September 25, 2018

Deadline to register to vote is Oct. 9

Casting their vote in Clermont County.

BATAVIA, Ohio (Sept. 25, 2018) – Some important dates are coming up as the Clermont County Board of Elections prepares for the 2018 General Election on Nov. 6.

This election, commonly referred to as the midterm election, includes these races in Ohio:

Federal:

All House seats

U.S. Senate seat
State:

Governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, justice of Supreme Court (2), Court of Appeals judge

All state representatives

County:

Commissioner, auditor, Common Pleas Court judges (3)

There is one state issue on the ballot, and a number of local issues and levies.

October

Oct.  9: Deadline to register to vote. The Board of Elections is open until 9 p.m.

Oct. 10: Absentee voting by mail begins (ends Nov. 5)

Oct. 10: Early in-person voting begins:

  • 10-12: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • 15-19: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • 22-26: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • 27: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Saturday)
  • 29-31: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.

November
Early in-person voting hours:

  • 1-2: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • 3: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Saturday)
  • Nov . 4: 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday)
  • 5: 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Nov. 3: Noon deadline to request an absentee ballot

Nov. 5: Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by this date

Nov. 6: General Election: Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.; voters can drop off absentee ballot at Board of Elections office until 7:30 p.m.

The Clermont County Board of Elections is located at 76 S. Riverside Drive, Batavia. For questions, call 513.732.7275 or email Director Julia Carney at jcarney@clermontcountyohio.gov. Complete information on the upcoming election, the sample ballot, and where to vote can be found at the Board of Elections website, www.clermontelections.org.

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September 24, 2018

Conservation assistance offered to farmers through Oct. 19

OWENSVILLE, Ohio (Sept. 24, 2018) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that Friday, Oct. 19, is the deadline to submit applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in Ohio.

EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that helps to make conservation easier for producers. Together, NRCS and producers invest in solutions that conserve natural resources for the future while also improving agricultural operations.

Lori Lenhart, the NRCS District Conservationist for Brown and Clermont Counties, says, “Through EQIP, we are able to give producers both financial and one-on-one help to plan and implement conservation practices, such as cover crops, nutrient management and others which lead to healthier soils, cleaner water and improved agricultural operations.”

Financial assistance is now available in a variety of agricultural categories such as cropland, forestry, pasture operations, and organic. Several special projects are also available which address water quality (such as fencing livestock out of streams), forestry management (such as removal of honeysuckle and other invasives), improving pollinator populations, applying best management practices and many more.  All available agricultural categories are listed on the Ohio NRCS website under “EQIP Application Deadlines.”

To participate in USDA conservation programs, applicants should be farmers or farm or forest landowners and must meet eligibility criteria. Applications signed and submitted to NRCS by the Oct. 19 deadline will be evaluated for fiscal year 2019 funding.

In Brown and Clermont Counties, agricultural producers interested in applying for EQIP and conservation planning assistance should contact Lenhart prior to Oct. 19 at 513.732.2181, ext. 102 or by email at lori.lenhart@oh.usda.gov.

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