Readers question use of campaign funds, county spending, tree removal

Readers question use of campaign funds, county spending, tree removal

There is no shortage of topics on the minds of Licking County residents, including using campaign funds to pay for a job-related trip, tree removal, paint and battery disposal, road signs and county spending.

Please keep the questions coming and I’ll answer them as I can. It could be about government, business, development, transportation, jobs or just about anything in Licking County. So, please send me an email. Details are at the bottom of this column.

Question #1: Elizabeth Hampton, of Newark, asked a follow-up question to my answer about who paid for government officials’ trip to visit the Intel Corporation facility in Chandler, Arizona. Mark Ellis, of Liberty Township in Knox County, asked who paid for the trips for the 20 local officials.

State Sen. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark, said he paid for the trip with campaign funds. Hampton wanted to know if it’s appropriate to use campaign funds, wondering if his donors wanted to elect him but not pay for trips.

Hottinger said anything campaign-related or job-related is an appropriate use of the funds. “I find it a better alternative than using taxpayer dollars,” Hottinger said.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s office cited Ohio Revised Code section 3517.13(O)(2), which states campaign funds can be used for the “duties of public office.” The ORC states the office-holder can be reimbursed for “legitimate and verifiable ordinary and necessary prior expenses incurred by the beneficiary in connection with duties as the holder of a public office.”

Question #2: Stanley Wrzyszczynski, of McKean Township, asked what the Licking County Commissioners do with the dramatically increasing funds from conveyance fees, and wondered why nothing is dedicated to the creation of affordable housing or a homeless shelter.

The county charges a real property transfer tax of $3 per $1,000 in real estate transactions. The conveyance fees brought in $5.3 million in 2021, a 44% increase from the near $3.7 million in 2020. Through June 27, conveyance fees this year have brought in $2.9 million, the same as in all of 2018.

County Commissioner Tim Bubb said some of the funds are used specifically to promote economic development and some go into the county’s general fund, which provides a variety of services to residents. He said counties don’t have the authority to donate to charities, unless it’s something spelled out in the Ohio Revised Code, like a historical society.

“County governments are an extension of state government and the authority comes from the state,” Bubb said. “Unlike municipalities with local control. If the county got into the business of building homeless shelters, it could use the money for that.”

Question #3: I answered a question from Sally Davis in last month’s column, but I apparently answered the wrong question. She asked about tree removal along Ohio 16, saying the trees had provided a nice border protecting neighborhoods from highway sights and sounds.

I mistakenly thought she meant in Granville. ODOT said the trees there were removed as part of the Ohio 661 bridge expansion project.

Casey Rehbeck, of Newark, said he believed Davis was asking about tree removal along Ohio 16 in Newark, near the westbound lane of the Country Club Drive exit. He said there were also trees removed along the Ohio 16 entrance ramp from 11th street and sections along east Newark. Rehbeck called the result “ugly.”

Newark Service Director David Rhodes said it is the city’s responsibility to maintain the state route in the city, including the fences and vegetation along the highway.

Trees grew into the fencing and caused damage, so the city removed the trees and replaced the fence, Rhodes said. The fence helps prevent deer or other animals from wandering onto the highway.

Question #4: Kitty Guinsler, of Jersey Township, asked where old paint, dehumidifiers and batteries can be taken for disposal.

Licking County Recycling Director Andrea Krava said paint can be disposed of in the trash if it’s dry. Cat litter or sawdust can be mixed in to make it dry and crumbly before it’s put in the trash. Also, paint hardener substances are available at most home improvement stores.

Dehumidifiers have Freon, which must be disposed of properly because it is an ozone-depleting substance. Krava said she knows of two businesses that legally remove Freon and recycle the rest of the dehumidifier. Check with Hebron Scrap Metal and Recycling (740-527-2126) or Mr. Bees Appliance (740-344-1611), in Newark, for more information.

For batteries, there are different options for recycling and/or disposal, depending on the type of battery, Krava said. Licking County Recycling accepts batteries at 295 Wilson St., in Newark, 8 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday. Non-alkaline batteries can be taken to Home Depot, Lowe’s, Batteries Unlimited, Interstate Batteries and Staples. For alkaline batteries, possible options are: Batteries + Bulbs in Gahanna and Reynoldsburg, Retriev Technologies in Baltimore, and Environmental Enterprises in Columbus.

For more information, call Licking County Recycling at 740-670-5125.

Economic statistics of the month: The volume of Licking County home sales through the first five months of the year was $316 million, a 34% increase from 2021 ($236 million) and 63% increase from 2020 ($194 million).

Quote of the month: “As a native Ohioan, it’s very exciting for me to say this will be Intel’s first US investment in 40 years. It’s fantastic when you read national media stories and people are going ‘what’s going on in Ohio?’ Well, we’re awesome, that’s what’s going on in Ohio.” — Emily Smith, the Intel director of Ohio Public Affairs

This month in history: Ten years ago, on Friday, June 29, 2012, straight-line winds called a derecho hit central Ohio, leaving 90% of Licking County without electricity, including about 9,000 in Newark for more than a week, during a heat wave. Wind gusts were recorded exceeding 80 mph and three deaths in the county were due to health problems made worse by the heat.

Have a question? Send it to: I’ll include your name in the column with the answer to your question.

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2022-07-05 07:00:00