Defiance County has submitted an application for grant funds to benefit a future U.S. 24 safety project.

Engineer Warren Schlatter updated commissioners on that topic and a few others during his weekly report.

He informed commissioners that he submitted a grant application through the County Engineers Association of Ohio in Columbus for a proposed overpass at U.S. 24 and Independence Road.

This is part of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) plan to make safety improvements on U.S. 24 between Defiance and Napoleon in the coming years, by closing several intersections and building two overpasses (Independence Road in Defiance County and Road 17D in Henry County).

According to Schlatter, the grant would provide about half the funds for the overpass. He said ODOT will hold a “scoring” meeting next week as it considers the application.

“And then, hopefully, we have follow-up with ODOT to make up the shortfall because obviously that’s only about half the funds,” said Schlatter.

He already has suggested to ODOT that right-in and right-out turns be allowed on U.S. 24 at two intersections (Jewell and Independence) which state officials want to close. Two other Defiance County intersections (at Flory and Banner School roads) also would be closed under the ODOT proposal.

Commissioner David Kern noted Monday that while positive comments have been voiced about the U.S. 24 safety proposals, concerns have been raised about township road maintenance with the proposed road closures. These would make it more difficult for road crews in Adams and Richland townships to access their areas of responsibility efficiently.

Once the county sees that the changes will be coming, said Schlatter, the next step “will be to sit down with the two townships — Adams and Richland — and figure out what we do because it’s going to leave a little bit of a maintenance mess for everybody in that area. ... We may have to see if we can come up with some sort of joint three-way maintenance agreement between the parties.”

While officials are moving forward on the U.S. 24 changes, Schlatter informed commissioners that the proposed rebuild of Kramer Road in Milford Township will be delayed until 2021.

An assessment process, in which one local firm (Weber Sand and Gravel, Inc., Edgerton), would pay for some of the improvements is under consideration.

The company uses the road to access its gravel pit on Kramer Road near the St. Joseph River.

However, Schlatter noted Monday that the assessment process would delay the possibility of a project this year.

Therefore, he said work likely won’t be bid until early spring 2021.

The projected cost is $500,000 with two grants accounting for $250,000 and Milford Township adding $50,000. Weber would repay a $200,000 Ohio Public Works Commission loan under the proposed plan.

Also Monday, commissioners received an update from Erika Willitzer, executive director of the Defiance County Community Improvement Corporation.

She told commissioners that her office is working on 15 “active projects” while she will have “several different” economic development agreements for commissioners to sign in the future.

One of them is for the firm Apex — based in Hancock County — which recently acquired Consolidated Grain and Barge on Krouse Road. But this would only keep an existing agreement in place, Willitzer indicated.

She also made mention of a planned groundbreaking for EnviroKure, a planned fertilizer business next to Hillandale Farms’ large egg-laying operation near Hicksville. A date has not been secured, but Willitzer said October is likely for a groundbreaking.

Too, she informed commissioners that she recently met the new plant manager, and he “very much wants to try to recruit local Defiance County residents, but if they have to they’ll go outside of the area. ... they’re looking for some really high-level positions and then also general labor, so we’re going to assist them in putting together a workforce strategy.”

The company plans to turn manure from the Hillandale Farms operation into fertilizer products.

Later, commissioners met in executive session with Willitzer to discuss economic incentives for proposed business developments.

In other business Monday, commissioners:

• met with Amy Hoffman of Palmer Energy to discuss a new electric aggregation contract for county-owned facilities. Hoffman will return to commissioners after receiving proposals for a new contract beginning in May 2022.

• received a legal update from the county prosecutor’s office.

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