How was your Memorial Day weekend? The folks working in Clermont County’s Water Resources Department’s water treatment plants had an eventful weekend, for sure.
Because the demand for water never stops, plant operators reported to work like any other day.
As thunderstorms began to pop up on Saturday, May 23, the operators at the county’s three water treatment plants kept close watch. Experience has shown them that lightning and electrical equipment don’t play well together.
While lightning storms regularly cause power flickers and occasional surges that damage equipment, this particular storm caused catastrophic damage to major equipment.
In the midst of the storm, the Bob McEwen Water Treatment Plant near East Fork State Park lost total power.
A maintenance technician was called in to help assess any damage. The emergency backup generator at the plant was turned on but that did not solve all the problems. Duke Energy was called and a few hours later responded, after the maintenance technician discovered that Duke needed to reset some of their equipment out on the street. Duke’s equipment was reset and power was restored to the plant but the pumps at the raw water intake (a couple miles away from the plant) still would not run.
After diagnosing potential problems, it was assumed that a transformer was the cause of the power loss. The maintenance technician called an electrical contractor to confirm their suspicions and see if the contractor could find a replacement transformer.
But this was now Sunday morning on a holiday weekend. The electrical contractor confirmed what the maintenance technician suspected. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to do anything until Tuesday morning since all their suppliers would be closed.
Meanwhile, the operators at the plant were juggling the treatment plant, avoiding any treatment violations while trying to treat and pump out as much water as possible while not being able to bring in any additional raw water.
The plant that was out of service is typically responsible for 30-50 percent of the total system production during this time of year.
The operators at the other plants were keeping an eye on the water demand in the system while trying to increase their pumping rates knowing that the likelihood of an extended outage at one plant means the demand on the other plants will certainly be maxed out.
Demand for water on Sunday and Monday didn’t decrease and water levels in the system slowly beginning to drop. Several changes were made to pumping strategies and valve positions in an effort to maintain pressure across the entire system.
As Tuesday morning came, the system had limped along avoiding depressurization but the problem still needed to be solved. The electrical contractor informed the county that a replacement transformer may take days, if not weeks, to find, transport, and install. The decision was quickly made to rent a mobile generator while a permanent solution was found. That was a major undertaking but by early Tuesday evening, the generator (which has to be refueled at least once every day) was hooked up and running.
Now the operators had to restart the plant ensuring everything was meeting EPA regulations which was no small task after being down for roughly three days. In addition to getting the plant back online, all the samples that normally are collected throughout the day had to be collected and analyzed within a few hours.
Keep in mind that this is the longest shut down of the plant since it was put in service in 1995.
Many options were considered and eventually a new transformer was found locally and arrangements were made to have it transported and installed as soon as possible. The transformer arrived in the afternoon on Friday, May 29. The plant once again had to be shut down so the generator could be disconnected and the new transformer reconnected.
By late afternoon on Saturday, everything was back up and running. The operators once again had to restart the treatment process and collect samples.
Looking back on the events of the week, the maintenance staff, operators, supervisors, and managers all performed exceedingly well in the face of adversity.
To repeat a phrase we’ve been hearing all too often lately, this was truly an unprecedented time.
So the next time you have a long holiday weekend and turn on the faucet to wash your hands or get a glass of water to drink, think kindly of the Water Resources Department staff because they will still be working.
BATAVIA, OH (June 18, 2020) — Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are estimated to reduce Clermont County general fund revenues from $64.1 million in 2019 to $58.4 million in 2020, said Mary Rains, director of the Clermont County Office of Management and Budget. Rains gave an overview on June 17 during a public hearing on the proposed annual tax budget for 2021.
Fortunately, the county has kept a strong fund balance and reserves due to its responsible management of the budget, Rains said.
Clermont County keeps healthy reserves on hand because of its heavy dependence on sales tax revenues, said David Painter, President of the Clermont County Board of County Commissioners.
The general operating fund represents about a quarter of total Clermont County budgeted receipts and expenditures. It funds 20 of 21 elected officials activities and provides for mandated services related to criminal justice, general government, judicial services, public safety and health and human services.
The state-ordered shutdown of businesses to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus has impacted revenue from sales tax, casinos, local government funds and indigent defense reimbursement. There has also been a reduction in citations, cases and sheriff fees related to court actions.
Revenues from the sales tax are estimated to decline from $29.3 million in 2019 to $26.4 million in 2020. Charges for services are projected to drop from $10.1 million last year to $9.4 million this year. Most other revenue sources are expected to decline, break even or increase modestly.
General fund operating expenses are estimated at to be $63 million for 2020 and $62.4 million for 2021.
Clermont County ended 2019 with a $28.4 million General Fund cash balance, which is projected to decline to $20.8 million at the end of 2020 and to $14.1 million at the end of 2021 if capital expenditures are completed as planned. In addition to this carryover balance, the county has general fund reserves including $5.3 million in the county’s budget stabilization fund.
The Clermont County 2021 Tax Budget – with funding from tax levies as well as other revenue sources – are budgeted to generate revenues of $235 million in 2020 and $259 million in 2021. They generated $237.5 million in 2019. Expenses are budged at $249.7 million in 2020 and $279.6 in 2021. Budgeted funds balances are estimated at $105 million at the end of 2020 and $84.9 million at the conclusion of 2021 if the re-investment strategy remains consistent.
“I am very proud of the job that the current Board of County Commissioners and previous boards have done to prepare us for such an event as the shut down during the COVID Stay at Home Order,” Commissioner Claire Corcoran said. “Our fiscal conservancy has allowed Clermont County to remain ‘open for business.’ In spite of the adjustments to working remotely and staggering schedules, our county has continued to provide services for our residents. I’d like to especially thank our budget department for continuing to exemplify fiscal responsibility.”
BATAVIA, OH (June 12, 2020) — Robert Schubert and wife Christina Northern – the parents of six children, ages 15 to 20 months – had lived in a van in back of a Clermont County sandwich shop for 18 months when they came to Family Recovery Court. He signed up for the rigorous year-long program on Aug. 21, 2018, and she joined about a month later.
Addiction to methamphetamine knocked them down to the point that their children were placed in foster care on Oct. 17, 2017.
Thanks to the structure and support of Family Recovery Court (a part of Clermont County Juvenile Court), they regained custody of their children on Sept. 27, 2019. Robert has been sober since Aug. 15, 2018, and Christina, June 17, 2018.
On June 11, the six children joined their parents at a virtual/in-person graduation ceremony at the court. Thomas, 15, Landen, 13, Ethan, 10, Zelia, 8, Hailey, 5, and Lily, 20 months, watched as Judge James A. Shriver praised the family, wearing masks due to COVID-19. Family members and case workers watched online via Zoom.
“We had a chance to graduate virtually earlier, but we waited for the extra time to thank him face-to-face,” Robert said.
The specialized docket under Judge Shriver was one of the first of its kind in southwestern Ohio when it started on Nov. 13, 2014. Clermont County Family Recovery Court was based on the drug court model, which emphasizes treatment over punishment.
On average, the program takes more than a year to complete. Families (couples or individuals) voluntarily enter Family Recovery Court.
Requirements include attending frequent court hearings, Substance Use Disorder treatment, random and frequent drug screens, meetings with a case manager, calling and checking in regularly, attending AA or similar sober support meetings and getting a sponsor or mentor, having income, establishing housing, taking care of criminal matters and getting a driver’s license.
“Even though it was tough, I liked the program and its structure a lot,” Robert said.
Robert and Christina did six months of parenting classes, anger management training and marriage counseling. They participated in regular drug screening, completed outpatient treatment at Clermont Recovery Center, and attended recovery meetings – while holding down jobs.
“It was definitely a challenge,” Robert said. “They kept us going. When you stop using drugs, you’re starting a new life.”
The couple also needed to find a residence, a difficult task due to an eviction and two prior drug convictions.
A case manager helped the family find a 2-bedroom apartment – their home for almost two years. The program helped with the first month of rent, deposit and gas cards. Three boys are in one bedroom, three girls in another, and the parents have a bed in the living room.
They kept the kids in school in Fayetteville, about 45 minutes away, because they’re doing so well there. All have earned “student of the week” or “student of the month” awards since returning to their care.
“It hasn’t been easy, but we’re probably better off now than we have ever been,” Robert said. “All of our bills are paid. We’re maintaining a home. We’re building a nest egg to get a home closer to the school.”
“When they came to Family Recovery Court, they were homeless. They have an extensive history of drug use including a variety of substances,” Judge Shriver said. “They have both maintained employment, secured housing, regained custody of their children, completed treatment requirements and are both celebrating more than 18 months of sobriety. They have complied with all other program requirements and Recovery Court officials are so proud of their progress. Since their children have returned to their home, they have shared photos with the court of celebrating holidays and spending time in nature, which they love to do.”
BATAVIA, OH (June 4, 2020) — Public comments will be accepted June 4-8 on the Community Development Block Grant 2020-2024 Five Year Consolidated Plan, 2020 Annual Action Plan and Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Plan. The plans propose allocation of $974,086 in block grant funds and $573,023 in CARES Act funding.
The plan will be available here: https://clermontcountyohio.gov//community-development/ and in the third-floor lobby at 101 E. Main St. in Batavia. Comments may be made via website, email (firstname.lastname@example.org), voice mail (513-732-7907) or letter (101 E. Main St, 3rd Floor, Batavia, OH 45103).
A public meeting is scheduled for Board of County Commissioners meeting on June 10, where the Commissioners will adopt the plans and pass a resolution for the President of the Board to sign all documents required by HUD for submission. The plan will be to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on or before June 25.
Clermont County Grants Coordinator Sherri Cmar told the Commissioners on May 27 that 11 project proposals, totaling more than $500,000 over allocation of $974,086 had been received.
Cmar recommended funding nine projects, with a deficit of $103,613, which will be more-than covered from program income and allocated funds for projects that did not take place in prior years
Recommended projects include: turn lanes for U.S. 50 in Owensville ($189,147) and Charles Snider Road ($217,779) in Goshen Township. to enhance economic development; Franklin Township for community building improvements ($79,259), Village of New Richmond for August Street improvements ($103,500), Batavia Township to bring former Amelia maintenance facility up to code ($76,679), People Working Cooperatively for home repairs ($50,000), Housing Opportunities Made Equal for fair housing ($15,000), CASC for drug and alcohol counseling ($71,000), and Clermont County Public Health for septic system rehab ($100,000).
Recommended CARES Act $573,023 projects include: an additional allocation to PWC, $50,000 for homeowner repairs; Senior Services, $55,000 for homeowner repairs for seniors and HOME, $25,000 for fair housing services. The remaining funds will be placed in an UNMet needs gap fund and will help to cover costs related to COVID-19 services.
Consultant Paul Lippens of McKenna gave the Commissioners an overview about the 2020-2024 Consolidated Plan and Assessment of Fair Housing. The plan documents needs and demands for affordable housing with the most current data and summarizes funding and programming strategies for providing affordable housing.
Five years ago, Clermont County became an Entitlement Community and became eligible for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding directly from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rather than through the state. This increased allocations to the Clermont County Community by over 50 percent. Currently, Clermont County CDBG is allocating $974,086 annually and an estimated $4.97 million for the 5-year plan is projected.
Clermont County CARES Act funds of $573,023 for 2020-2021 must benefit low-and-moderate income persons in Clermont County and must follow all CDBG project guidelines. Grantees may use Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for a range of eligible activities that prevent and respond to the spread of infectious diseases such as the coronavirus.
Clermont County has, over the past year, reviewed prior projects, gaining understanding of housing needs, and developed new priorities for the 2020-2024 plan by meeting with community leaders, service providers and residents in focus groups and public forums. The Citizen Participation Plan has been updated due to COVID-19 to include online meetings during emergencies (Facebook Live, Zoom, etc.) and comments via email, voice messaging and USPS.
BATAVIA, OH (June 2, 2020) – The annual spring litter clean-up event held in Clermont County and the East Fork Little Miami River watershed has been changed to a virtual, Summer Litter Clean-Up (SLC) for do-it-yourself volunteers. The SLC event, coordinated each year by the Clermont Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Valley View Foundation (VVF), will kick off on July 4 in honor of our nation’s independence and will run through July 25.
“We’re asking volunteers to pick any date during that time frame to find an area near their home or in their local community that is in need of litter removal,” said Vanessa Hannah, Executive Director with the Valley View Foundation. “Individuals or small groups can pick up litter as they visit local parks, hike nearby trails, or canoe the river while practicing social distancing.”
All volunteers are asked to register through the event website: www.springlittercleanup.com. Clean-up materials, including protective gloves and trash bags, can be made available at specific locations across Clermont County. A stainless steel water bottle with this year’s student designed logo will be included with clean-up materials, while supplies last.
On May 13, the Clermont County Commissioners recognized 10th grader Ellie Arkus for winning the 2020 SLC Logo Design Contest and also acknowledged her teacher, Ms. Amy Hauserman, and New Richmond High School for their involvement with the program.
“We’re always impressed with the designs submitted each year and Ellie’s design looks wonderful on the stainless steel bottle,” said Becky McClatchey, with Clermont SWCD.
The Logo Design Contest and Spring Litter Cleanup are sponsored locally by the Clermont County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Duke Energy Foundation, and the Southern Ohio Association of Realtors (SOAR). The event is also partially supported with a grant from Ohio EPA.
Online registration for the event is open: http://www.springlittercleanup.com/. For more information, contact the Clermont Soil & Water Conservation District at 513.732.7075 or the Valley View Foundation at 513.218.1098.
BATAVIA, OH (June 1, 2020) – Clermont County Child Support is offering an opportunity for payors to have bench warrants recalled or canceled for failure to appear for a child support hearing OR for failure to report to jail to serve a sentence for failure to pay child support.
Here are the steps to follow:
The offer runs through July 31, 2020. Contact Child Support as soon as possible for more information or to take advantage of the recall.
BATAVIA, OH (May 29, 2020) – OhioMeansJobs – Clermont County and UC Clermont College will host a free virtual webinar for displaced Ohio workers at 3 p.m. June 4. The webinar is geared toward the recently unemployed, those looking for a new career and the unemployed.
Register for the Zoom meeting at careeropportunities6-4.eventbrite.com
Find the list of WIOA-approved courses at UC Clermont: ucclermont.edu/students/careers/workforce-training
BATAVIA, OH — The Clermont County Water Resources Department’s 5-year capital improvement plan (2020-2024) calls for many improvements to water mains, water tanks and sewers.
Lyle Bloom, the department’s director, explained the plan to the Board of County Commissioners in their May 20 meeting. Official approval is planned within the next several weeks.
The plan identified 58 water works capital improvements valued at $35.4 million, including 25 water main replacement projects ($22.5 million), elevated water tank inspection, rehab and painting projects ($3.1 million), water treatment plant and well field improvement projects ($3.4 million), new infrastructure/expansion projects ($6.2 million) and petition/assessment projects ($167,000).
Water main improvement projects include more than 665,000 feet (126 miles) of water main upgrades. The water mains were installed, 1954-1959, with a useful life of about 80 years. In 2020, Water Resources plans to replace 20,000 feet. By 2033, about 40,000 feet per year will be replaced. Projects are prioritized based on water main break frequency and the impact of breaks. When possible, Water Resources coordinates with the Transportation Improvement District and ODOT.
The plan calls for 59 wastewater capital improvements estimated at $64.1 million, including 21 sewer replacement/rehabilitation projects ($24.2 million), 12 lift station replacement, upgrade or elimination projects ($12.4 million), 12 wastewater treatment plant improvement or elimination projects ($12.4 million), new infrastructure/expansion projects ($2.5 million), and petition/assessment projects ($12.6 million).
Waterworks capital improvement funding includes:
Available funding (2020-2024) $39,527,844.00
Wastewater capital improvement funding includes:
Available funding (2020-2024) $59,470,634.00
Water main replacement projects include:
Elevated water tank inspection, rehab and painting projects include:
Sewer replacement/rehabilitation projects include:
Lift station replacement, upgrade or elimination projects include
Faced with shortages of hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial disinfectant wipes and sprays, Clermont County went ahead and made its own products.
Director of Facilities Management Wade Grabowski and Chris Turner, facilities coordinator, tapped local sources for ingredients, looked up mixtures on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, and conferred with a chemist at Clermont County Water Resources.
“It’s a well thought out operation, very effective for customers,” said Grabowski, a county employee for 30-plus years.
Turner added: “Anything that’s asked of me, I will do it.”
To make hand sanitizer, County Facilities transfers pharmaceutical grade alcohol into 3-ounce bottles. (After getting feedback that the alcohol caused dry skin, Facilities added a second “brand” with two to three parts alcohol to one part aloe vera, as recommended on the CDC website.) The alcohol comes from several local places.
In addition, Clermont County — a suburban/rural county to the east of Cincinnati — has purchased a half-dozen four-liter shipments of hand sanitizer manufactured by Fitzgerald’s Pharmacy in Williamsburg.
To produce anti-bacterial disinfectant wipes, the county purchases baby wipes at Wal-Mart, Meijer and Sam’s (never exceeding limits followed by all customers). Turner opens 100-wipe packets, turns them upside down to drain liquid, and funnels in 91-percent alcohol.
As a replacement for sprays, the county puts pH7Q from Trinity Supply in Cincinnati into 32-ounce refillable plastic squirt bottles.
On March 18, the county began opening a storage building 9-11 a.m. weekdays for product pickup. Virtually all governmental entities – everyone from water treatment workers to social workers to bus drivers – have taken advantage of the offer to protect employees and customers from COVID-19. First responders who cannot find the products elsewhere also get them, working via the Clermont County Emergency Management Agency.
Visitors keep proper distancing by waiting by orange cones at the facility’s entrance.
“We were bombarded with requests the first day,” said Grabowski, showing a sheet on a clipboard with 30-plus departments.
Besides the sanitizer and disinfectant, Facilities distributes gloves, masks, tyvek suits and (when available) Lysol spray. They also provide 5-gallon bottles of IMS III New Calgon, used to sanitize restaurants, to first responders. The county mixes two gallons of water with two ounces of the liquid for use in a fogger in bathrooms, bathrooms and buses.
In addition to the innovations in Facilities, Clermont County was one of the first to sign a contract with Battelle for N95 mask sanitation, and offer the service to other jurisdictions in the county. And Wayne Prescott of Fleet Maintenance designed a clear plastic face shield for bus drivers.
“I’m proud of the ingenuity exhibited by the employees in Clermont County,” said David Painter, president of the Clermont County Board of County Commissioner. “They’re really thinking outside of the box to help the county during this challenging time.”