An ODNR officer that works primarily at Rocky Fork Lake brought a proposal to the Highland County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday for approval in an effort to reduce crime at the lake area.
Park officer Adam Somerville with the ODNR said the state agency has been “actively involved” in the efforts at the lake to reduce crime, like the Rocky Fork Lake Area Safety and Advancement Plan (RFL-ASAP), which came about with a $100,000 grant from the Department of Justice to facilitate the development of a strategic plan to reduce crime at RFL. When the planning is complete and solutions are identified, the county will apply for an implementation grant to fund the fixes.
“As you know,” Somerville said Wednesday, “crime is a huge problem” at the lake. He said the most common offense is theft and the worst area for crime was North Beach.
There are two entrances to North Beach, and therefore two ways out as well, he said. Because of that, he said he can’t possibly see all that he needs to see when he is patrolling.
The solution proposed is to close North Beach Road just a few feet past Holiday Way, he said, which would leave an ODNR road off of North Shore Drive as the only vehicle access to North Beach.
The agency is hopeful that the closure will allow for better patrolling by park rangers. And Somerville said when he’s parked at the activity center, anyone looking to commit wrongdoing might think twice about it since they would have to pass by him first.
Somerville said the agency has already brought the idea to ODOT and the county engineer.
The plan would put guardrails across North Beach Road just past Holiday Way, but would still allow passage for foot traffic.
“I can see the advantage that would have,” commissioner Tom Horst said. He added that the closure “doesn’t impede any residents getting in and out.”
Commissioner Shane Wilkin asked about a more visually appealing closure other than guardrails, given that the overall purpose is to make the area more attractive in a number of ways.
“Right now, the guardrail is a quick fix,” Somerville said, but other options have also been discussed.
Commissioners on Wednesday seemed agreeable to the plan, but said they wanted to contact Highland County Engineer Dean Otworth first. Somerville is to be contacted by the commissioners office within the week.
In other business, a $30,000 transfer was approved and according to Horst the money is from a special fund at the Highland County Clerk of Courts Office and will allow the county to purchase a new cruiser for the sheriff’s office.
According to commissioners, that is the fourth cruiser that clerk of courts Ike Hodson has provided for out of his office’s funds.
“He’s to be commended on that. He’s a good steward of the office’s money,” and that helps the whole county, Horst said.
On the related matter of county vehicles, a motion to transfer ownership to Laurel Oaks of an older minivan used by a county agency that was totaled in a car accident was approved by all three commissioners.
Horst said the vehicle will go to the vocational school’s auto-repair shop and will be used in training students.
A van forfeited to the county through the courts has replaced the totaled vehicle, Horst said.
In other business, Wilkin said the office received an update from Bill Bradish with Palmer Energy following a meeting with county township trustees in which there was a “pretty good” response to electric aggregation for the county.
Wilkin said a ballot measure would likely not be possible until the fall.
The suggestion from Bradish, Wilkin said, was to allow the townships to decide the matter themselves. He said the county would be the aggregator with PUCO.
Electric aggregation would be for unincorporated areas only, and Wilkin said it would be up to individuals “to sign up or not.”
Commissioner Jeff Duncan said the improvements at the Hi-Tech building, while a little behind, are progressing. The HVAC equipment has been shipped and is with the contractor, he said, which is waiting for the potential need for air-conditioning to completely pass before installation.
He said the concrete pad for the HVAC equipment will be reworked, due to structure problems, prior to the installation of the equipment.
Wilkin said he spoke with Clinton County Commissioner Mike Curry in regard to that county looking into a juvenile detention facility. Wilkin invited him to “reach out” to the juvenile detention center used by Highland County, which is located in Chillicothe.
Wilkin said Highland County is one of the member counties of the facility, and therefore responsible for the facility’s debt. He said member counties can “rent bed space” to non-member counties, which helps offset costs.
Wilkin said he talked to Highland County Juvenile Court Judge Kevin Greer who told him that the facility is typically around 85 percent capacity, which commissioners said allows for a few open beds that can be rented out.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.