Williams County Commissioners: Ability Center & OSU Extension Program Provide Updates

THE ABILITY CENTER … Present at the November 15, 2021 Williams County Commissioners sessions, Ash Lemons and Angie Burton, from The Ability Center, shared some education on this organization and gave an update on what they are doing and hope to do in Williams County. (PHOTO BY REBECCA MILLER, STAFF)

By: Rebecca Miller

Dennis Bell, from Bell Engineering was present for a session of the Williams County Commissioners to open the one bid turned in for the MVPO Project – Pioneer Clark Avenue Pump Station and Sanitary Sewer Extension.

Helms and Sons out of Findley, Ohio placed a bid for $724,359.00. The estimate was $664,087. Bell will follow up with the Commissioners.

In General Session, the Commissioners voted to approve:

-Transfer of appropriations

-Resolution 365 Bid 739 petitioned by John Coolman was dismissed.
-Also signed: Dog Warden Report for November 1-7, 2021; two quotes in regards to JFS; Maumee Valley vouchers; Draws for the Kunkle Wastewater System; Request to carryover vacation for Kim Holland; Engineers office sent Property Line drawing for EMS for commissioners to draw the line where they want it.

-Minutes of previous meeting and payment of bills.

At 10:30 that morning, the Commissioners heard an update from The Ability Center satellite office located in the Annex Building in Bryan. Present to give the update were Ash Lemons, Associate Director and Angie Burton, the Bryan Office representative.

The Ability Center is based in Sylvania, Ohio and has satellite offices in seven Counties in Ohio and has been serving the Disabled Community for 100 years.

They offer opportunities in housing, health care, social, educational, public spaces, transportation and employment to help make each location a “Disability friendly community.” They work with companies, community leaders and organizations to further that mission.

Their brochure states it, “Striving to make our community the most disability friendly in the country through advocating, education, partnering, and providing services supporting people with disabilities.”

Mr. Lemons explained a little more about the organization and introduced Angie Burton as the only person in the Williams County Ability Center office, their current rural area.

This office has been open since 1994. Their services are covered by federal and state grants. They do assistive technology, youth programming, cleaning/sanitizing and redistributing equipment that might be needed.

They also have a School Therapy Dog Program that is active and doing well. Presently Catcher is at the Bryan Elementary School. A professional document is in the process of being researched and written through University of Toledo.

Two more schools, Pioneer and Stryker, are on the waiting list to get a therapy dog. There are a total of 22 schools radiating out from Toledo, that have service dogs at present.

He reported that according to the US Census, there are 36, 692 people living in Williams County and over 7000 are 65 or older, 19.4% of which have a disability, and 7.7% of that over 65 group are living below the poverty threshold ($12,043 annual income).

The Ability Center currently assesses that “there is a gap between the amount of services we have been able to provide and the potential need for services in Williams County…and that need will continue to grow.”

On average the demographics of The Ability Center customers in Williams County are 56% female with an average age of 49 with a disability. 70% of the Disabilities are Physical, 21% are Cognitive, 2 % mental/emotional, and 7% are multiple.

In 2021, The Ability Center was able to provide 153 individual services to 46 residents of Williams County. These services cover a variety of issues with the top five services provided being Information and Referral, Assistive Devices, Home Modifications, Youth/Transition and Recreational.

Lemons told the Commissioners that they want to know what they can do to help, how they can work together and if there might be some funding for The Ability Center.

The new Executive Director, Stuart James, was unable to attend that day but Lemons said he is very excited about helping in the rural areas and comes to the center with a great level of training, experience and hopes for the future.

Commissioner Rummel mentioned that the Commissioners are working on bringing better public or at least disability/senior Transportation to the county and that he would love it if they can have a conversation about working together on that.

Commissioner Hilkert recommended that they contact the area Foundations for some possible funding and Burton said they are definitely on her list of contacts.

The commissioners were glad to hear that they have connected with Maggie Fisher, who is the Executive Director of the Williams County Department of Aging and are looking into doing presentations at the Senior Centers, Montpelier Rehab and the hospitals.

They are also reaching out to the larger businesses in the area to find out who is open to hiring people with disabilities.

The Commissioners thanked them for coming and informed them that they look forward to hearing more and getting better educated on The Ability Center.

The last session of the day was held for an update from the Ohio State University Extension Program with Agriculture and Natural Resources (Ag and NR) Educator for Williams County Stephanie Karhoff and Water Quality Extension Associate (for Fulton, Williams and Lucas Counties) Jordan Beck.

Karhoff began with a budget report on 2021 and a budget for 2022. The estimated Levy appropriation income for 2022 is $294,399.

She thanked the Williams County voters for approving that levy again this month and said it is greatly appreciated. Total salaries and benefits ($165,115) are constant and include funds for two educators (Karhoff and 4-H Educator Stacey Perry), office associate, program assistant, SNAP Ed assistant Becky McGuire, and a 4-H Summer intern.

She went on to share about all the other expenses in the program and explained that they are able each year to have some carry over. The recommended Carry over recommended by OSU is 25-33% and they are at 29% for the 2022 budget.

The Ag and NR in Williams County in 2021:

-Provided recertification to any licensed fertilizer and pesticide applicators in NWO area. 88% of those who went through the education stated that they “improved their knowledge about nutrient management.”

-Partnered with Purdue Extension and Kenn-Feld out of Edgerton, to deliver a six session Farm Risk Management Program for Women in Agriculture, called Annie’s Project, with eleven participants and $1,250 in regional sponsorships, in Steuben County, Indiana and hope to bring that to Williams County in the future.

-Did a Soil Health Survey of local fields to determine how management practices impact organic matter, soil structure and biological activity in partnership with Mr. Beck

-Had eighteen active Master Gardener Volunteers maintaining local gardens, leading outreach efforts and participating in continuing education activities.

Their Fact Sheet stated that their goal is “to engage farmers and their trusted advisors in new production strategies, technologies, and best management practices to improve fertilizer use efficiency and farm profitability while promoting soil health and reducing nutrient and sediment losses with the western Lake Erie basin.

Through education, outreach and demonstrations highlighting the benefits of practices we hope to encourage widespread adoption and sustained practice implementation.”

Area farmers and others who are interested or have questions can contact Stephanie Karhoff at karhoff.41@osu.edu or 419-551-6047, and Jordan Beck at beck.320@osu.edu or 419-337-9120.

Commissioner Hilkert thanked them for the “great job” they do with the programs they offer. Commissioner Rummel said he appreciates the partnership with OSU Extension.

Beck spoke briefly about the Water Quality Associates, saying the funding comes from grants and the focus is on educating the farmers and general public.

They hope to make an impact on the lake, walking along side other groups that are working to make sure the area water is healthy.

With no further business, the commissioners adjourned for the day.

Rebecca can be reached at rebecca@thevillagereporter.com

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