Town hall at the fair

ST. CLAIRSVILLE The county commissioners held a town hall meeting Friday morning to talk about the status and future of the fair and of related projects with a focus on the county’s young people.

Jane Keyser, representing the extension office, discussed plans to replace the sewage system at 4-H Camp Piedmont. Extension Educator Mike Lloyd is working on a grant and other options. He noted the camp has celebrated its 65th anniversary and is a welcome hub of activity. However, the sewer system remains in need of improvement.

“The current system that’s out there dates back to 1968. It has been there for many years and has outlived its useful life,” he said, adding that the Ohio EPA has encouraged them to update the facilities. Efforts have gone on for five years.

“We’ve had lots of support, but not lots of funding.”

He added that they have worked with USDA Rural Development in producing a formal engineering report, which concluded the need to replace the system. He said the location means it is not serviceable by any municipal system, meaning an on-site system is necessary. Estimates range from $300,000-$420,000.

He said the new system would not be affected by the seasonal nature of the camp. The system is also expandable and could serve two camps.

The system also carries low operating costs.

Lloyd said they are looking at USDA Rural Development for funding assistance, but the probability of funding is not high. The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District wished to know if the rest of the project is funded before earmarking their finances to help.

“We’ve rattled most of the government agencies,” he said, adding that they have also looked into 501 C-3 organizations, as well as approaching oil and gas interests. Each county served by the camp has donated $1,250, most of which went to the engineering report. A $20,000 grant was received through Farm Credit, and a $1,000 grant from AEP. “We have a pot with about $25,000 currently for a project that’s over $400,000.”

He asked for the commissioners’ support.

“We want the explore all the options that may be out there,” he said, suggesting that placing the project under the sanitary sewer district may open up new funding options.

“Funding for sewage is one of the single most difficult things to accomplish,” said Commissioner Ginny Favede. She advised further contact with ARC.

The commissioners pledged to support the effort.

“It’s a worthwhile program,” said Commissioner Charles R. Probst, Jr.

Lloyd also reported on other projects such as the restoration of several cabins and upgrades to the kitchen. However, the future of the camp hinges on the sewer system.

“Ultimately without getting this one done there will no camp because Ohio EPA could conceivably shut us down,” he said.

Commissioner Matt Coffland noted that some oil and gas revenue could be committed to a sewage project. Probst added that casino funds could also be put aside.

Fair Board Director David Jones confirmed that they are signing a more lucrative oil and gas lease, but this will not cover the debt.

Tourism Director Doc Householder praised the fair board for its work. In tourism-related news, Barnesville’s pumpkin festival will be held at the end of the month. Cash Explosion will be held there also. The Rubberneck Tour will also be held Oct. 6 in the Colerain area. Mining will be done at the fairgrounds, but will not interfere with the fair.

Favede acknowledged the tourism council’s work, including paying for the utilities at the Carnes Center

In other matters, Polly Loy of Family and Consumer Sciences announced the 2013 Fall Wellness program, calling for county employees to make better decisions in nutrition and activity. She said so far 100 people have signed up for the six-week online program.

She also reported on the SNAP Education program, utilizing a federal grant to educate low-income families concerning nutrition. The program has been ongoing for 15 years. This year, the focus will shift to youth in the schools.

Volunteer Master Gardener Kathi Vaughn spoke about past programs to encourage children to eat healthy with an interest in gardening. This past year they worked with 250 third graders in the county. She said hands-on experience makes an impression with children.

“You get their hands dirty, you get them growing, and all of a sudden the light bulbs go off,” she said.

Keyser introduced Dave Lima as the new extension agent.

In other matters, Favede noted that the fair days have been well-showcased in social media. On Thursday, close to 1,000 children visited the fair and participated in hands-on programs during the field day.

4-H Princess Hannah Kemp and Prince Brock Frankhauser represented the fair royalty during the town hall meeting. Safety vehicles and helicopters featured.

DeFrank can be reached at