Is it time for a county administrator?

The Board of Hancock County Commissioners has many irons in the fire these days.
Flood control, jail updates, court renovations, and recycling are just a few of the day-to-day things the commissioners must juggle.
They are also in charge of a $26 million budget, and have many additional state-mandated duties as well.
That’s why it may be time for Brian Robertson, Mark Gazarek and Tim Bechtol to consider hiring a county administrator to help guide the county into the future.
More than half of Ohio’s 88 counties have such an employee. Most of the state’s biggest counties do, but so do many smaller ones, including Putnam County.
The administrator position can be created by order of the commissioners and is an appointed position. Job duties can vary, depending on need.
In Hancock County, an administrator clearly would need to be a jack-of-all-trades.
The call for such support staff would appear justified at a time when the three county commissioners have so much on their plate.
Unlike city government, which has an administrative side (mayor) and legislative side (council), commissioners do it all.
Commissioners are the budget and appropriating authority for county government, meaning everyone — every agency, every court, every other elected county officeholder — depends on them for their budgets.
While the commissioners have handed off most flood-control responsibilities to the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District, they still have a voice in which future projects get funded since they control a portion of the sales tax dedicated to flood control.
That tax expires at the end of the year, however, and the funding moving forward is uncertain at this point.
Then there is the other elephant in the room, the need to address a county jail expansion and renovations. A long-term plan for county office space also isn’t going away, either.
The commissioners attempted to address those matters last year, but voters soundly rejected a sales tax bump that would have funded a bigger jail and a new county court building.
An administrator could help the commissioners with budgeting, planning and prioritizing county needs.
Hancock County must keep up with growth and the greater demands being placed on government services, like recycling. Hiring an administrator could help it do that.
Gazarek, Robertson and Bechtol are each doing a good job as commissioners, and are fortunate to have an excellent support staff.
But the commissioners must ask themselves and other office heads if the county would do even better with an administrator on board.
Some may question whether Hancock County can afford it. Certainly, creating a top administrative post would cost money. A substantial salary and benefit package would be needed to attract and keep a qualified person.
The more appropriate question, though, may be this: Can Hancock County afford not to have one?



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