By DENISE GRANT
The Hancock County commissioners, buoyed by news from the Army Corps of Engineers, gave an update on county government at the Hancock County Republican Party’s First Friday Luncheon.
The Army Corps announced this week that the Blanchard River Flood Mitigation Study is included in the agency’s $4.8 billion project budget for this year.
The corps allocated $1.5 million for the study, which is half the amount needed to conduct an environmental review and finish the study. The commissioners will pay the balance.
To date, the flood study has cost $6 million, with the commissioners and the corps splitting the bill.
“For 100 years we have talked about flood mitigation. Now, we’re finally in a position to get something done,” Commissioner Brian Robertson told the Republican gathering on Friday.
Robertson said the public should get a look at a tentative flood-control plan this year. A public meeting to review the tentative plan was promised last fall. However, Robertson explained that engineers are still working out details.
In August, Robertson asked the corps to develop plans for constructing a diversion channel along Aurand Run, a route that would spare 100 acres of farmland. This alternative plan is meant to appease county farmers who have been critical of flood-control ideas.
The corps had recommended building a diversion channel that would follow a glacial groove through the countryside, with the goal of not having to cut through near-surface bedrock.
Cutting through the bedrock along Aurand Run would make the option more expensive, and isn’t likely to be recommended by the corps. It would then be considered a “local initiative” and would not qualify for federal funding.
On Friday, all three commissioners took turns highlighting the accomplishments of county departments over the past year. Some of the information mentioned:
• The county collected $502,156 from its hotel bed tax in 2013, which is a record amount. The money is used to fund the Hancock County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which Robertson said amounts to an excellent investment.
• Hancock County Juvenile Court handled a total of 1,491 cases in 2013, which is down, Commissioner Mark Gazarek said. In 2012, the court handled 1,616 cases. Delinquent and unruly cases dropped from 458 in 2012 to 327 last year.
• The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office issued 2,259 citations in 2013, compared to 2,248 citations in 2012.
• The Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office reported a drop in both domestic violence and stalking cases in 2013.
• The Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office collected $1 million in delinquent taxes in 2013.
• Federal food assistance is also down in the county, from $12.9 million in 2012 to $11.6 million in 2013.
But Medicaid, a federal and state expense, grew from $77.6 million in 2012 to $82.5 million in 2013. A total of 11,256 individuals in Hancock County receive Medicaid assistance each month.
The commissioners plan to deliver a “State of the County” address in April. The speech is traditionally held at the courthouse and is open to the public.
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