The Plymouth County board of supervisors accepted the recommendation of the advisory board for local option sales tax to award $500,000 in 28 grants to local organizations.
The vote was unanimous among the supervisors to accept the recommendations from their advisory board. Money is authorized for specified projects as of July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Dennis Wolf, advisory board chairman, told supervisors that the LOST group had "collectively a lot of knowledge" which benefitted the six meetingss of decision-making.
"It was well worth the learning," Don Kass said of the advisory board appointed this spring.
Plymouth County received 44 grant applications by the April 29 deadline this year. Amounts requested by the organizations totaled almost $1 million.
Supervisors said they questioned why Hinton Fire Department was the only one of the seven departments not receiving a grant of $15,000 this year. However, Hinton's ambulance service was granted $30,000 toward replacing the van-style ambulance.
Bill Tentinger said the advisory board had a problem with the items requested by the Hinton Fire Department, which included a Polaris Ranger 6x6, truck and small tank pump.
Kass explained the advisory board members had discussed the challenges faced by fire departments. Even if townships levied to the maximum allowed, they could not keep up with the price of modern fire equipment. It was discussed that OSHA might begin requirements on equipment for volunteer departments. Kass indicated there was a belief that inflation on fire equipment exceeding other costs supercedes concerns about using LOST money on tax abatement.
The county's local option sales tax ballot in 2001 said that money could be used for "community betterment" or county infrastructure with zero percent for property tax relief (abatement). Board members had discussed different interpretations of how projects could be considered tax abatement if replacing regular budget funds.
Tentinger said one of his goals from experience as a township trustee was to help fund fire departments. He considered it a form of economic development because "without good fire protection, who would want to build?"
From pioneer days, fire was a major concern, according to Tentinger. There were already concerns in some areas about insurance ratings due to fire protection availability, he indicated.
"Why wouldn't we have the best fire protection we can afford?" asked Tentinger rhetorically.
Kass pointed out that some firefighter training was paid from the men's own pockets, which he did not think was right. Supervisor John Schneider said he understood that was a 65-hour requirement.
The largest awards were to:
* The Plymouth County 4-H and Agricultural Society (often called the Fair board) for $109,790 toward debt retirement and purchase of two new additions;
* Wasmer Post #241 of the American Legion for $52,000 toward the Veterans' Memorial Park;
* Life Skills Training Center, Inc., $39,000 for replacement of the roof at the laundry workplace for persons with disabilities; and,
* Plymouth County Historical Museum for $27,000 to provide diagonal parking, paving and lighting on the south when Fourth Street Southwest is renovated.
A full listing of the grant recommendations appeared in the Daily Sentinel of Thursday, June 16.
Three members of the LOST board will meet Monday with Supervisors C. Gordon Greene and Jim Henrich to discuss ways to improve the application and review process for the LOST grants.
"About the time we get it down to an art, the local option will be done," joked Tentinger.
The local option sales tax fund includes money in reserve when supervisors designated the $500,000 for the local grants this year. The fund is likely to have more money than expected since payments made by the state went up from about $69,000 per month to $76,821 for May. Payments by the state are based on estimates of the 1 percent sales tax collected in Plymouth County. Cities also receive payments from the LOST based on a state-mandated formula. The county's sales tax expires in 15 years as bonds will be paid off for construction of the jail/law enforcement center.