By Josh Yoder
Change is coming in waves from all corners of Holmes County. In 2016, voters agreed to raise the sales tax by a quarter of a percent in order to help the County Engineer’s Department compensate for the escalated price of asphalt. Two years later, their decision allows work to be done as crews are currently directing traffic and paving roads while attempting to keep traffic flowing.
“First of all, I don’t like taxes,” said county commissioner Joe Miller, a main proponent of the initiative. “But on a scale of one to 10, the voters’ decision to raise our sales tax was an 11.”
The need for road surface repairs was evident and raising the sales tax made the most sense. “Asphalt used to be $20 a ton, now it’s more than $60,” Miller explained. “There wasn’t extra money coming in to make up for that, so the voters need to be commended for doing this.”
In 2017, the county utilized sales tax funding to pave more than 24 miles of road on County Roads 51, 189, 160, 144 and parts of 168. This summer, while paving crews bid on contracts for another 26 miles of resurfacing, county engineer Chris Young’s crews have ground down segments of County Roads 25, 6, 245, 172, 114, 575 and the east end of County Road 168.
“We’re all very pleased with the progress of the project and the quality of the finished product,” Young said. “We’ve done some grinding at all these locations, prepping the road for the contracted crews to come through to lay down asphalt and berm as well.”
The engineer has also received a Federal Grant to cover the cost of striping the roads with paint, a feature many of these county roads did not have before. Signs on these roads will be updated, funded by the Engineer’s General Fund.
“We’re really excited to continue what we’re doing,” Young said. “We’re hearing positive feedback from the people who are out on these roads.”
The road project wasn’t the only thing that 2016 birthed to the community. Miller, along with fellow commissioners Ray Eyler and Rob Ault, had an idea to beautify the outside of the Holmes County Courthouse in historic downtown Millersburg.
Each year, Ohio counties receive funding that is generated by taxes from the State’s casinos. With those funds and bed tax money, the commissioners enlisted the skills of Columbus’s landscape architect responsible for Easton properties, James Burkhart. Two years later, the earth beneath the courthouse lawn has been upturned as the beautification has begun. “The sidewalks were breaking down, and the bells on the corners were popping semi-truck tires, and we just thought it was time to spiff up our lawn,” Miller said. “The courthouse belongs to everyone. Not many people want to go in, but we want to make the outside a pleasant place to gather in downtown Millersburg.”
The half-million dollar agreement will create a public space for people to eat their lunch and meet with others during the evenings, as well as make passers-by think ‘we need to stop here.’ “It’s going to look pretty and will be something everyone is welcome to use,” Miller said.
Berlin Contractors is preparing to pour footers, and Miller hopes crews from subcontractors Millersburg Electric, Grasshopper and pavers yet to be named can finish tasks before the Antique Days Festival, the second weekend in October.
This story originally appeared in the August 15, 2018 edition of The Budget. For more news, pick up a copy of this week’s edition available Wednesdays at area retailers. Better yet, subscribe and the news will be delivered to you each week. For more information, call us at 330-852-4634.