Clark County's outlook strong for 2022

As 2022 gets solidly underway, Clark County has both an optimistic outlook and big plans to continue moving forward in this new year.

“Sources indicated 2021 was a strong year for our county,” Clark County Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt says. “We have really seen an increase in sales tax revenues. It’s really been a huge goal to see these increase because it’s really a measure for us of whether our economic base is successful.”

If people who live and work in Clark County are also choosing to spend their money here, it builds a strong local economy, she says, adding that this positive trend appears as though it will continue into 2022.

“It makes me optimistic for 2022 because we would be able to reinvest in infrastructure and housing and bolster the infrastructure we have,” Flax Wilt says.

Additionally, Flax Wilt says access to American Rescue Plan funds have allowed the county to pay back any loses caused by the pandemic and look ahead to longer-term projects that will impact the community.

The county will end up with a total of $26 million in this funding, which she says must all be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026.

Already approved is a stormwater project, says Flax Wilt, adding that some other things being considered include a variety of requests from community partners, such as infrastructure at the fairgrounds, mental health care options within the jail, and a potential mental health treatment facility.

She says having the funding available to support these kinds of projects helps take pressure off the county’s general fund and gives the commission the opportunity to spend those dollars elsewhere.

The commission, Flax Wilt says, relies on its strategic plan to guide their decision-making process.

And, she says that plan includes three main areas of focus: economic development, infrastructure, and community health, specifically mental health and addiction.

The economic development aspect of the plan is designed to bolster the quality of life of county residents and businesses so they can thrive, Flax Wilt says.

Part of that is ensuring functional access to government services provided by the county, including both facilities and information technology, she says.

“In today’s day and age, ‘access’ doesn’t necessarily mean going to the courthouse,” Flax Wilt says. “It might mean getting information from a website. We have really invested in our information systems in the last few years, and the public will finally begin to see the results of that investment, which included redoing our network and all the fiber optics.”

The county has invested about $4 million in that project during the last few years, she says.

With regard to infrastructure, Flax Wilt says that commission has been trying to invest in county buildings that had been left in disrepair for a long time.

“There were a lot of Band-aid fixes from times when the budget wasn’t healthy,” she added.

Flax Wilt says that years ago, the county did a vehicle inventory and now purchases new vehicles to replace old ones on a rotating basis rather than needing to replace everything at once. She likened that process to how the commission now looks at making building updates and renovations.

“We don’t want so much deferred maintenance to catch up with in the future. We want to maintain our facilities and do the best we can with taxpayer money,” she says.

With the recent $2.5 million investment to renovate the A.B. Graham building that was complete in late 2020, Flax Wilt says the Clark County Courthouse will be the next major building renovation project to tackle.

The county’s budget will also reflect funds allocated to support mental health and addiction issues within the community, she says. The county helps fund services through the Department of Job and Family Services, the Mental Health and Recovery Board, and the Clark County Health District to support the efforts of these organizations and promote community health.

Flax Wilt also provided updates on some ongoing county projects, including the county-wide 911 Communications Center.

The $5 million facility on Home Road will house a dispatch center, office space, and a training facility. It was slated to open for use in fall of 2021, but the opening has been pushed back, in part because of supply chain delays.

Flax Wilt says the IT infrastructure needed to be updated, but that the project is moving closer to completion.

“It should enable smooth communication between law enforcement and emergency response across the county,” she says. “By coming together, we could update everything and have state-of-the-art communications systems that are compliant with state and federal regulations and are all done together under the direction of … the sheriff.”

The center will reduce duplication efforts of emergency calls and provide the same access to the same type of response whether residents live in the city or in rural areas, Flax Wilt says.

Flax Wilt also says that she’s optimistic that 2022 will begin to show results of the high demand for housing and business space in Clark County.

“There have been so many announcements over the last year that we’ll be able to see this year with new rooftops and new businesses,” she says.

Flax Wilt says the announcement of the Gabe’s 850,000 square foot distribution center coming to Clark County’s PrimeOhio II Industrial Park is an indication of how well-placed Clark County is for distribution and warehouse facilities.

The $77.5 million project will create the company’s largest distribution center. It is scheduled to open in early 2023 and is slated to bring more than 800 jobs over five years.

“We have always had a steady pipeline of interested developers,” she says. “Each year we hear more good things about how developers seek us out as much as we are seeking out partners that are a good fit for us.

“It’s nice that we are in a position to be a little more picky about the kinds of organizations we want to draw to our community.”
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