Rejected DOJ grant, unemployment struggles amongst Highland County commissioners’ issues for congressman

Highland County’s Commissioners Jeff Duncan, Terry Britton and David Daniels met with Teresa Lewis, Regional Director of the Peebles Office of Congressman Brad Wenstrup, on Wednesday, May 5, to discuss the declined Justice Department grant of $ 843,498 and related concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and related issues programs discussed.

As previously reported, on October 5, 2016, the US Department of Justice announced a grant of $ 843,498 for the Rocky Fork Lake area. Wenstrup was one of the officers who made the first announcement in the commissioner’s office.

Commissioners voted to reject the grant on Wednesday, December 5, 2018, saying they would “inform the Justice Department that we will waive this grant and start closing the grant.” I agreed not to agree “Said Duncan of the county’s ongoing efforts with the Justice Department during the meeting.

Lewis started talking to commissioners who said they wanted to “look into the DOJ issue”.

“Is that still pending?” She asked.

Britton said it was. “We have had talks with them to try and complete it, as far as it is completed,” he said. “The problem we have is trying to find the backup records for some of these things.”

“Everyone involved moved on to something else,” said Duncan.

As previously reported, following a $ 100,000 grant, the grant was awarded in October 2014 as part of the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program’s efforts to reduce crime in certain communities. The first grant allowed Highland County to design a strategic, collaborative, and community-oriented plan to reduce crime in the targeted neighborhoods. LuAnn Winkle, then managing director of the Turning Point Applied Learning Center, led the 18-month application process for grants. Turning Point ceased operations in 2019, and commissioners said in 2018 that the DOJ said Turning Point could not be part of the grant.

In addition, several changes have been made to the Commission since the grant was originally awarded, as well as other changes at the local, state, and state levels. Lewis said that even Wenstrup’s chief of staff, who backed the grant proposal, “has been gone for almost two years”.

Lewis asked the commission if any problems closing the grant would “hold you up here”. Britton said, “Kind of, yes.”

Lewis replied that they were “trying to find out where it is in the pipeline”. She said that due to the pandemic, things were delayed and that “there were so many spoons in the pot that [the project] was really messy for a while. “

“Well when they went home the communication basically stopped,” said Britton.

Daniels said one problem is that the Justice Department “doesn’t seem to get the idea that this is not happening everywhere”.

“They asked about this year’s budget,” said Daniels. “We are no longer planning [for this]. They keep coming back with these little things we’re supposed to do, kind of like, “Oh, we’re going to get on with this,” but they don’t say, “That’s how we have to get this done.” ”

Britton added, “This thing is dead and we just have to close it.” “Whatever it takes to shut it down we will, but there is a problem trying to find some of the records on this matter,” he said.

Lewis asked the commissioners to write a “fresh, fresh letter” to Wenstrup to submit to the Justice Department and alert them to the problem. “And do you point out that it was four years ago?” She said. The commissioners said they would include this information as well as the fact that “the granting authority has broken up,” as Daniels said. “The records are scattered in the wind. I think we can provide pointers on how the money was spent, but I don’t know if we were able to find receipts. “

Lewis said it appears the project is “now buried alive” what the commissioners called a “good description”.

“It’s a shame how it got published there,” said Britton. “It was granted, and then they started changing all the rules. It was really unfortunate. “(For more information on the Commission’s problems with the grant, visit: to -reject-843K-grant-for-Rocky-Fork-Lake / 2/20/47620.)

“It was,” said Lewis. “It could have been a really good thing.”

Lewis informed the commissioners that Wenstrup is expected to be in the county on June 4th and then can meet with them. She also spoke about the Congressman’s desire to host a business roundtable, as both she and the commissioners said employment was a major issue at the moment. One of the main reasons, she and the commissioners say, is the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides or extends unemployment benefits to individuals.

“Entrepreneurs can’t get help,” said Lewis. “You cannot compete with unemployment. You can’t compete with rules and everything related to this day and time in the pandemic. We’re trying to hold round tables across the district, so we’re going to be working with Jamie [Wheeler] in the chamber [of Commerce] and try to bring some people together. “

Britton said her office regularly receives complaints about employment issues. “What they do with unemployment is almost a shame, I think,” he said.

Lewis said she found it “surprising that people don’t want to go back to work” even now that vaccines are more readily available and “could really be out” to do more. However, both she and Daniels gave examples of experiences they have heard when individuals make more money from unemployment than in their previous positions.

“Nobody is going to go back to work after you’ve been away from work for two years or a year and three months,” Daniels said. “They lose their desire and will to go back.”

Lewis said this would continue to be “a problem” as PUA regulations were extended throughout the summer. Daniels added that this will also affect “many things” such as supply chain and transportation issues, as well as personnel issues.

“It will probably never go back to where we were, but there will probably be some new normals, some new things that are going to happen in our societies,” said Lewis. “We have a lot of things to do right now.”

The commissioners also talked about the rise in public debt with all of the recent spending. Lewis told the Biden, “The government thinks this is really wonderful and we’re always scratching our heads.” She said it creates “dependence on the government”.

“Washington DC really needs to look in the mirror and say, ‘What are we doing here?'” Britton said.

Before leaving, Lewis asked if the commissioners had “a message” for Wenstrup. Daniels said the unemployment regulation had to “stop” and urged Wenstrup to “make an effort” to fight the extension through September.

“It has to stop,” said Daniels. “I think everyone can see it. All business owners can see it. You can’t talk to a group of people who don’t say, “This can’t go on forever.” I know it has been extended to September but it can stop now if enough people come on board and say, “Hey, we have to stop this.”

Britton also called on Wenstrup to oppose some provisions of President Joe Biden’s recently announced American Family Plan, particularly those relating to “capital gains tax.” The plan is to “increase capital gains tax from 20% to 39.6% for those who earn and raise more than $ 1 million a year[ing] The highest marginal tax rate by 2.5 percentage points to 39.5% to pay for the new expense, ”said Casey Harper of Center Square.

A White House bulletin states: “The President’s proposal would remove the loophole that allows the richest Americans to completely evade tax on their wealth by passing it on to their heirs. Our tax laws today allow these accumulated profits to be passed on untaxed across generations, which exacerbates inequality.

“The President’s plan will fill that void and end the practice of increasing the base for profits greater than $ 1 million ($ 2.5 million per couple when combined with existing real estate exemptions) and ensuring that profits Taxed if the property is taxed it is not donated to charity. The reform is designed with safeguards so that family businesses and farms do not have to pay taxes when given to heirs who continue to run the business. “

“There are some suggestions in DC to get rid of the elevation,” Britton said. “This would not only harm Highland County, but the whole country as well. They are trying to double the capital gains tax on farmland. Tell Congressman Wenstrup that we need help there. “

Lewis said Wenstrup was “on your side” but he “and his colleagues are outnumbered”.

“This is a really serious place we’re in right now,” she said.

• • •

In another discussion:

• At 9:15 am, according to Chris Fauber, Highland County’s engineer, the commissioners had a call for tenders for a nationwide Chip / Seal project that includes some townships. The county received only $ 475,500 from Miller-Mason Paving.

After a short break, on the recommendation of the engineer, the commission voted 3-0 to pass a resolution to award the project to Miller-Mason.

• Duncan said all three commissioners attended a May 4th meeting in Lynchburg where citizens raised concerns about solar parks. For more information on this meeting, please visit

“A lot of good points were made,” said Duncan. “We’ll see what happens to this meeting – hopefully something positive.”

The commissioners approved the following resolutions 3-0 each:

• A budget change within Y-20 DETAC-Treasurer of 6,000 USD.

• A budget change within the Treasurer of $ 1,400.

• A budget change within the T-29 Pre-Trial Supervision FY20 of USD 925.

• Request for additional funds from undesignated funds of $ 953.10.

• A budget change within the County Airport from Miscellaneous to Miscellaneous of $ 758.19.

• A change within County General – Economic Development of $ 50,000.

Renewals of the following contracts were also approved:

• Commissioners, Highland County Probation Board, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction – Grant Agreement; and

• Commissioners – Child Support Enforcement Authority, Joint Pleas in law – IV-D Child Support Treaty – April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.

The board voted 3-0 to authorize the president to do:

• Repairing the Rolling Acres Sewerage System – OWDA Fund Payment Claim # 1; and

• Area 7 / Greater Ohio Workforce Board and Highland County – Modification of Subgrant Agreement PY 2020-2023.

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