July 17, 2019

Clermont County Commissioners agree to settlement – Hicks vs. Clermont County lawsuit

BATAVIA, Ohio (July 17, 2019) — Clermont County Commissioners have agreed to a settlement in a case filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, captioned Hicks v. Clermont County Board of Commissioners et al., S.D. Ohio Case No. 1:17-cv-00677. (“Federal Action”).

Mr. Christopher Hicks sued the County and others claiming they did seven things wrong.  Five of the claims were dismissed, three by the judge and two Mr. Hicks dismissed himself.  Mr. Hicks was requesting money to pay his attorney fees and some money for himself.

The two remaining claims related to a July 26, 2017 Commissioners meeting and the Rules of Procedure for Commissioner Sessions.

Prior to the July 26, 2017 Commissioners meeting, Mr. Hicks had spoken at two other Commissioners meetings.  The morning of July 26, 2017, before the Commissioners meeting, Mr. Hicks sent an email to the Commissioners advising what he wanted to speak about at the meeting. At the Commissioners meeting, then Board President, David Uible, under the belief that Mr. Hicks wanted to speak about things that he had spoken about previously and things that were not germane to County business, did not permit Mr. Hicks to speak. When Mr. Hicks was asked to be seated, he refused and was removed from the meeting.

The claim related to the Commissioner’s Rules of Procedure for Session was specific to the language in the Rules that contained language used in Ohio law relating to the disturbing a lawful meeting.

The settlement agreement authorized by the Board of County Commissioners on July 17, 2019, states that the Clermont County Board of Commissioners admit that, while not being disruptive, Mr. Hicks’ First Amendment right to freedom of speech was violated when he was not given permission to speak during public participation and was removed from the Board Session meeting on July 26, 2017. The Board of Commissioners will be enjoined from removing persons from a Board Session meeting on the grounds that the person made an utterance, gesture, or display which outrages the sensibilities of the Board and from authorizing the Board President to determine whether a speaker’s remarks outrage the sensibilities of the Board at a session meeting.  Those restrictions are of no consequence in that the relevant language was previously removed from the Board Rules in January 2019.

In addition, his attorneys and Mr. Hicks will receive $145,000 for attorney fees and compensatory damages and $1,500 for court costs and Hicks’ expenses in the Federal Action.

Clermont County Board President,   David Painter stated, “It’s very unfortunate that in today’s world we can’t talk out our differences. Lawsuits have become the medium whereby discussions are held and great wealth is obtained from the pockets of tax payers.” (Video of Commissioner Painter’s comments will be available on www.clermontcountyohio.gov.)

The County has been advised that Judge Timothy S. Black, U.S. District Court; Southern District of Ohio will file a contingency dismissal of the lawsuit as a result of the settlement.

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May 28, 2019

Judy Eschmann, Director of Job & Family Services, is retiring

Judy Eschmann

BATAVIA, Ohio (May 28, 2019) – Judy Eschmann, the Director of the Clermont County Department of Job & Family Services, is retiring on May 31 after five-and-a-half years at the helm of the agency here, and a career of 33 years in social work.

That can be a tough and challenging profession, but for Eschmann, it’s been a rewarding one. The Batavia native went to the University of Cincinnati intending to become a school teacher or social worker. After college, she took the civil service test required to work for what was then known as the county welfare department.

“Hamilton County hired me (a very young and green version of me) and I set out to ‘save the world’ and the next 33 ½ years just flew by,” she says.

As a lobby receptionist for Hamilton County, she was the first face that hundreds of people saw each day as they came in for assistance. “I worked my way up a career ladder and had an opportunity to work in many positions including case worker, supervisor, trainer, and policy coordinator,” Judy said. “In 2010, I became the director of Clinton County DJFS which is structured very similar to Clermont DJFS, but on a much smaller scale. It was a great place to learn about all the connections among agency programs including funding, shared services, program mandates and overlaps and most importantly our shared customers.

“In 2013, I became director of Clermont County DJFS and have loved every minute of it,” she says.

As director in Clermont County, Judy said she is most proud of the summer youth employment program that DJFS manages and that enlists local employers to hire youth from low-income families for summer jobs. Those jobs, which pay $10 an hour, can make a big difference to the kids – and their families.

“I remember only having a few months to pull that program together,” she says.” Our entire agency assisted with identifying eligible youth as well as reaching out and recruiting employers to serve as worksites. That team effort was the foundation for a program that has grown each year and served hundreds of youth.”

Eschmann says that it’s easy to misunderstand exactly what DJFS does – because it encompasses so many divisions.

“The name of Job and Family Services is vague and does not describe who we are, and most people don’t realize what we do,” she says. “We are a social service agency with a team of dedicated, talented, compassionate staff. In our Public Assistance Division, we assist families with temporary and long-term benefits (food, cash and Medicaid). In our OhioMeansJobs Center, we provide services to job seekers and employment training. In our Child Support Division, we establish paternity and enforce child support orders. In our Children’s Protective Services Division, we work with families to overcome barriers to keep children safe.”

As she starts a new chapter, Eschmann says, “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to end my JFS career in the county I call home. I believe the programs we administer help assist individuals and families with self-sufficiency, assist with supporting a healthy community and assist with keeping children safe. I am fortunate to work with a talented team and all our accomplishments were possible because of my team.”

After relaxing with her family a bit at home, Eschmann says she’s ready for a new career. “While I’m not as young or as green as I once was, I still have a fair amount of ‘save the world’ left in me.”

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May 23, 2019

Commissioners approve a new distribution for Local Government Fund

BATAVIA, Ohio (May 23, 2019) – At Session on May 22, the Clermont County Board of Commissioners approved a new formula for the distribution of revenue from the Local Government Fund that will go into effect in 2020.

The formula was proposed by the Clermont County Township Association and will give townships a bigger share of funds, with cities and villages getting a smaller share. “A lot of hard work went into this and you’re to be commended for it,” said Commissioner David Painter, President of the BCC.

Ohio’s Local Government Fund (LGF) is funded with general tax receipts of the state, and is distributed back to counties and cities in Ohio. The amount of the LGF is authorized in the state’s biennial budget. In 2018, the LGF for all of Clermont County was $2.78 million. Distributions from the State of Ohio are received every month.

For years, Clermont County’s Local Government Fund was distributed through a formula that gave 48.545% of the proceeds to the county, and the remaining amount to cities, townships and villages in Clermont County, with the City of Milford, as Clermont County’s largest city, receiving the largest amount.

This alternative formula, as it was called, was reviewed every five years. Three votes were required to approve the alternative formula every five years: the Board of County Commissioners and the City of Milford each had a vote. The third vote came from the remaining municipal jurisdictions plus the townships, of which the majority ruled.

In 2018, the Commissioners passed a one-year extension to the 2012-2017 Alternative Formula.

A change to the Ohio Revised Code now allows townships to exclude the largest city in a county from having its own vote. This exclusion must be approved by the townships annually. Each of the 14 townships in Clermont County voted to exclude Milford from the approval process.

Under the new formula, the county will still receive 48.545% of the LGF. Of the remaining funds, 25% will be shared equally among all municipalities and townships. Seventy-five percent of the remaining funds will be distributed on a per capita basis, with Union and Miami townships receiving the largest amount. The new formula will be phased in over three years.

Under the current formula, the City of Milford (population 6,900) receives approximately $164,000 and Union Township (population 50,000) receives about $140,000 this year. In 2020, Milford will receive an estimated $125,000 and Union Township $178,000.

Commissioner Ed Humphrey recused himself from the Commissioners’ vote on the new formula. His son works as a police officer in Loveland, which is affected by the change in funding.

Before the formula can go into effect, the townships need to revise their resolutions and vote to exclude Milford for one year, not five years as originally proposed, by Aug. 1.

At several Sessions over the last couple of months, township, city and village officials spoke before Commissioners stating why they thought the formula should change, or why an extension of the current formula was needed to allow for more discussion.

“This particular process has been a long process,” Commissioner Painter said at Session. “One of the great things that happened is that people now understand the Local Government Fund.”

He added, “The previous formula could not be supported by good mathematics. There was a feeling out there that the formula was not fair.”

Both he and Commissioner Claire Corcoran said that because townships must vote annually on whether to give Milford a vote, this allows local governments – cities, villages and townships – to continue discussions and come up with other changes to the formula.

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May 10, 2019

CTC to hold 3 public hearings on route elimination

BATAVIA, Ohio (May 10, 2019) — The Clermont Transportation Connection (CTC) will hold three public hearings seeking input on the proposed elimination of CTC Route 1 Felicity – Eastgate via Amelia on the following dates:

  • 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 22, third floor of the County Administration Building, 101 East Main Street, Batavia, during regular Session of the Board of County Commissioners.
  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 29, in the Queen City A Meeting Room at the Union Township Civic Center, 4350 Aicholtz Rd., Cincinnati.
  • 10 a.m. Friday, May 31, at the Felicity Branch of the Clermont County Library, 209 Prather Road, Felicity.

The route, which provides service to Felicity, Amelia and Eastgate on Tuesdays and Thursdays, has very low ridership, said CTC Director John Rayman. The proposed change would eliminate the route, and allow CTC to provide more Dial-a-Ride service, which is very popular, and is a flexible alternative to the current Route 1.

The public is invited to attend one of the sessions, or direct comments or questions to Rayman at 513.732.7577 or jrayman@clermontcountyohio.gov.

The CTC website has information on bus and Dial-A-Ride services: https://ctc.clermontcountyohio.gov/dial-a-ride-service/.

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May 3, 2019

How $5 vehicle registration fee and gas tax increase will impact county roads, bridges

BATAVIA, Ohio (May 3, 2019) — Commissioners approved at their May 1 Session a request from County Engineer Pat Manger to advertise for bids to resurface approximately 19 miles of roads and repair 17 miles of roads at an estimated cost of $2.08 million.

Approximately half of the revenue for the 2019 Road Resurfacing Program is coming from a $5 increase in vehicle registration fees, which the Commissioners approved in 2018. This allows roughly $1 million more per year to flow into the Engineer’s Road Improvement Program, increasing the number of miles that will be repaved each year.

Also during the May 1 Session, Manger spoke to the Commissioners about the recently enacted $10.5 cents-a -gallon increase in Ohio’s gasoline tax. It is the first increase in the gas tax since 2005. Neither increase was indexed for inflation, and Manger said that has put every county behind in its attempts to keep up with road and bridge needs. The gas tax increase is expected to generate an additional $1.5 million a year for each of Ohio’s counties.

Townships, villages and cities will also see additional revenue from the gas tax increase.

The Engineer’s Office is responsible for approximately 400 miles of county roads and 416 bridges in Clermont County. Funding comes exclusively from Ohio’s gasoline tax, which is divided equally among all 88 counties, no matter the population, and annual vehicle registration fees. Each county receives approximately 70% of the vehicle registration fees generated in their county.

In 2018, the county Engineer’s Office received $7.2 million  vehicle registration fees and $2.3 million in fuel tax revenues.

In 2020, the first full year that increased revenues will come from the fuel tax increase, the Engineer’s Office is expected to receive $8.2 million in vehicle registration fees and $3.8 million in fuel tax revenues.

The additional revenue from the vehicle registration fee will be used exclusively for road resurfacing, reducing the paving cycle from the current 38 years to 22 years. The additional gas tax revenue will address deficient bridges, Manger said.

He noted that Clermont County’s topography makes it susceptible to landslides, and that currently 13 county roads are affected by landslides.

The Engineer’s Office said resurfacing on 2019 projects is expected to begin in late June.

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April 15, 2019

County elected officials meet with state leaders

COLUMBUS, Ohio (April 15, 2019) – Clermont County Commissioners David Painter and Ed Humphrey, along with County Treasurer Jeannie Zurmehly and Common Pleas Judge Jerry McBride attended the 2019 Ohio Council of County Officials (OCCO) Legislative Reception on April 9 to meet with state legislators and help build a stronger partnership between state and county government. An important topic of discussion was support for budget amendment HC0607 to fully fund indigent defense reimbursement.

State Sen. Joe Uecker, whose district includes Clermont County, was among the state legislators attending. State Reps. John Becker and Doug Green, both of whom represent Clermont County, are co-sponsors of the bill.

“We are eager to work with our legislators to improve the state-county partnership,” said David Painter, President of the Board of County Commissioners. “Ohio’s 88 counties serve as the administrative arm of the state by providing vital services, such as infrastructure, justice and public safety, human services and economic development. It’s essential that we work together to ensure that county revenue streams correspond to the services they are mandated by the state to provide.”

County leaders had the opportunity to meet with Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted as well as their legislators to discuss issues affecting counties, including budget amendment HC0607.

Gov. DeWine’s proposed budget commits an additional $60 million each year in general revenue funds for indigent defense, providing for a reimbursement rate of approximately 80 percent. While CCAO greatly appreciates DeWine’s proposed substantial investment, CCAO is encouraging legislators to support HC0607 to provide 100 percent reimbursement.

“The state assuming full responsibility for indigent defense costs would give Clermont County additional flexibility in allocating limited general fund revenue to support other county cost centers that are funded out of the county general fund,” Commissioner Painter said. “I believe these additional funds could allow us to address the funding needs of the Clermont County Jail as well as the funding allocation of the 911 Communications Center.”

In 2018, a total of $2.02 million was spent on indigent defense in Clermont County. Of that, the county funded almost $1.2 million and the state funded the balance.

The State Public Defender’s office estimates that it will take an additional $30 million in FY 20 and $35 million in FY 21 in revenue in order to reach full reimbursement. HC0607 will provide this revenue along with an additional $1.5 million in each year to support the operation of the State Public Defender’s office.

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April 8, 2019

Our Story, county’s 2018 multimedia Annual Report, now live

BATAVIA, Ohio (April 8, 2019) – Clermont County’s multimedia 2018 Annual Report – Our Story – is now live online: https://2018ar.clermontcountyohio.gov/.

In a visually compelling format, it features videos from Commissioners David Painter, Ed Humphrey and Claire Corcoran, milestones from throughout the year, a recap of economic development advances, and financials. It also has a series of short videos called Working for You that feature employees from various county agencies and offices.

A print tri-fold will be available at the Commissioners’ office and at various places throughout Clermont County.

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March 22, 2019

Animal Shelter to close for renovations March 31-April 5

BATAVIA, Ohio (March 22, 2019) – The Clermont County Animal Shelter will be closed to the public from March 31 through April 5 to install new flooring.

The shelter, which is managed by Clermont Animal CARE Humane Society, will reopen to the public on Saturday, April 6. Saturday hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

The shelter is located at 4025 Filager Road, Batavia.

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March 1, 2019

Rapid SOS allows dispatchers to pinpoint 911 calls

BATAVIA, Ohio – Clermont County’s 911 system now includes a feature called Rapid SOS, allowing 911 calls that are made with a cell phone to be accurately pinpointed by using the GPS on the caller’s phone.

Motorola Solution’s CallWorks system was installed at the 911 dispatch center in mid-January, said Dominick Daulton, Program Administrator for the Department of Public Safety Services, which includes the dispatch center.

Previously, 911 calls from cell phone users were triangulated using the nearest cell phone towers, Daulton said. “Now, using the GPS on the caller’s phone, the location of the caller can be pinpointed, and first responders can get to the scene more quickly,” he said.

Rapid SOS requires IOS 12 for iPhones and Version 4.0 and up for Android phones. Customers should call their cell phone provider to check that their phone is compatible with Rapid SOS.

CallWorks also has a new map feature that allows dispatchers to see where calls are coming in from. If a cluster of calls is coming in from the location of an accident, which dispatch already knows about, and a new call comes in from the other side of the county, the dispatcher can answer the new call. Previously, dispatch operators could only answer calls in the order they came in.

The cost of the system is $875,000, and will be paid for over 10 years.

Clermont County’s dispatch system answers 911 calls from throughout the county, with the exception of Union Township, Amelia, the City of Milford and the City of Loveland.

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February 6, 2019

Commissioner Painter honors the life of Detective Brewer

Feb. 6, 2019

Commissioner David Painter, President of the Board of County Commissioners, opened today’s session with these remarks about Detective Bill Brewer, who was killed in the line of duty Feb. 2:

On Saturday February 2nd, Deputy Nick DeRose and Deputy William Brewer responded along with Clermont County Special Response Team to a call for help from a 23 year old man. The two deputies sustained gunshot wounds as a result of their commitment to serve and protect the citizens of Clermont County. Lt. DeRose was later treated and released from the hospital, returning to work later that Sunday. Lt. DeRose was shot twice, once in the lower leg and another that struck his utility belt and protective vest preventing a life-threatening injury. He is a true testament to the resolve of the department. Detective William Brewer sustained life ending injuries as a result of his commitment to serve. I pray that Lt. DeRose has a speedy recovery.

Today, the Board of Clermont County Commissioners honor and mourn the loss of Detective William Brewer of the Clermont County Sheriff’s office. On behalf of the Board we extend our deepest condolences to Bill’s family and thank them for sharing him with us.

Bill and Nick spent over 20 years protecting and helping the citizens of Clermont County. On that Saturday, Bill along with his partner Lt. Nick DeRose, answered a call for help whereby Bill and Nick sustained gunshot injuries. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friend. Bill and Nick’s selfless courage goes well beyond God’s word in that they both were willing to lay down their lives for a man they did not know. Bill gave his life that evening in an effort to help. William Brewer was that kind of guy.

Bill was a son, a brother, a husband, a dad, and a beloved family member. He leaves behind his loving wife Jamie, his beloved son Braxton, his brother Michael, his parents Bill and Angie, his in-laws, his nieces, his nephews, his Clermont County Deputy family and all the citizens of Clermont County that he took an oath to protect.

There are a few professions whereby a man is required to commit his life to the protection of others. Bill was a Clermont County Deputy. Once a Deputy, always a Deputy. To the 200,000 residents of Clermont County, Bill will always be our Deputy.

To Bill’s wife and son, there are no words that I can speak to answer the question why such a tragedy as this is allowed to happen. For God’s plan is so vast that even if he were to show it to us, we wouldn’t understand it. Rest assured that there are two people that now understand his plan and one of them is Bill. May God comfort you in your time of loss. Our prayers are with you.