By JIM MAURER
Findlay’s Osborn Avenue bridge over the Blanchard River near Riverside Park is scheduled to reopen Dec. 15, Hancock County Engineer Chris Long told the Hancock County commissioners Tuesday.
The bridge has been closed for months as crews have worked to replace the structure. The new bridge will be a 252-foot structure and will provide sight improvements for motorists at the bridge approaches. The county will pay more than $106,000 and the state will pay more than $2 million for the work.
In September 2016, a truck accident forced the closure of a portion of East Main Cross Street beneath the bridge. As a result, the underpass was permanently closed.
The bridge, which is maintained by the county, was scheduled to be replaced this year. The underpass was scheduled to be closed permanently following the completion of the new bridge, but the closure was moved up following the accident.
Separately Tuesday, Tim Schulte of Schulte Put-Han Farm Operations, Ottawa, was the high bidder to lease about 190 acres of county-owned farmland along Hancock County 140 behind various county buildings. The three-year lease will provide about $175 an acre, or $33,250 annually for the county. Payment is made in three installments.
Schulte submitted an initial bid of $150 per acre. The only other bidder was Kevin Keefe of Five Star Farms, Fostoria, with an initial bid of $152.50.
After the initial bids were made, the two sides went back and forth with bids until Schulte’s final amount.
The previous three-year contract was for $270 per acre, Commissioner Brian Robertson said.
Schulte said he farms about 150 acres adjacent to the county property.
Phil Johnson, assistant county prosecutor, will prepare a lease. He said about 10 to 12 acres of low or hard-to-access ground may be taken out of production. If that happens, it would cause a reduction in the payment amount, he said.
Separately, a resolution to refinance bonds for Bluffton Hospital, part of Blanchard Valley Health System, was approved by the county commissioners.
Cindy Land, assistant county prosecutor, said the original bonds approved years ago were for $122 million for renovations and expansion of the hospital. The refinancing amount is for $108 million and will be an agreement with the village of Bluffton, not the county.
Separately, work continues on the probate/juvenile court building, Commissioner Tim Bechtol said, with the lobby area being shifted so work can be done in the building entrance. The back stairway is reconstructed but lacks handrails.
The 2018 county budget will be available for public review in the county auditor’s office in the courthouse beginning Thursday. Commissioners are expected to discuss and take action on the annual document at the board’s regular meeting Dec. 21.
Separately, bids are being reviewed for interior painting of public areas of the county courthouse, Bechtol said, excluding offices.
Commissioner Robertson said bids are also being reviewed for a material baler to be installed at the Litter Landing recycling center.
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