His first year as a Fulton County Commissioner had its ups and downs, but Jeff Rupp has gotten comfortable in the position.
He began his four-year term last January “with eyes wide open, not sure what to expect.” Now entering his sophomore year, Rupp has faced both accomplishment and disappointment.
The highlight of 2015 for him was the unanimous approval one year early of an Emergency Medical Services contract between the county, its seven fire districts, and their political factions. As a member of the committee assigned to bring the parties together, Rupp was left with a heady feeling of accomplishment.
“There were some mistrusts between the commissioners and fire chiefs and their political subdivisions,” he said. “We just got to the point where we thought, let’s move on and try to get an agreement worked out.”
That meant sessions where the parties vented their frustrations over previous, more contentious attempts at negotiation and aired festering grievances. But the passage in November of an EMS renewal levy and an additional operating levy buoyed everyone’s hopes they could hammer out an agreement not due until 2017.
In that spirit, the commissioners chose to refine what became a sticking point in former contract negotiations. They agreed that Fulton County’s seven individual fire departments would control their own staffing and procedures.
“Every chief has their own needs and staffing issues. We said as long as needs are met in a timely and efficient manner we have no problem in controlling their own staffs,” Rupp said.
The parties also formed the Fulton County Emergency Medical Services Executive Committee. By majority vote, it will have the authority to enact protocols and policies, and utilize the panel’s funds. The committee may also make recommendations of its own or at the request of the county’s fire chiefs.
“That was my high point, getting that accomplishment for 2015,” Rupp said.
Another accomplishment transcended a slight tiff that occurred between the county commissioners and the Village of Archbold. When village water lines supplying Sauder Village’s Heritage Inn and the community of Pettisville encountered breakage, village administrators proposed repairs that would benefit only the Sauder complex.
Rupp worked with village administrators on a cost-shared project between the village and the county that benefited all parties. “Once the ideas were brought up, everyone was on board,” he said.
The contracts are signed, and the project will begin after Jan. 1.
But Rupp has also experienced disappointment, the biggest emerging from the long-standing dispute between the City of Toledo and Lucas County over who should pay for the city’s inmate beds at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio.
“Because of that, it’s causing stress to the other counties, wondering about the viability of CCNO,” he said. “Just dealing with that over the last year and a half has been a low point.”
Toledo’s reluctance to foot the bill for its inmates throws into question the continued operation of the facility, which gets much of its operating revenue from the city. Without that funding, the 55 beds occupied by Fulton County inmates could be jeopardized.
Rupp isn’t fearful the county will lose those beds, but believes the feud “has the potential to become a long, drawn-out process to get the issue resolved. There’s just the unknown of, what if they don’t pay the bill? How are we going to keep the operation running?”
Still, the commissioner has enjoyed his first year on the panel, saying, “I didn’t have an agenda coming in, no expectations one way or the other.”
He looks forward to 2016, and the continuation of both the county’s financial stability and his good working relationship with his fellow commissioners and County Administrator Vond Hall.
Rupp is enthusiastic over what he consider’s the new year’s biggest project, a joint Fulton County-Ohio Department of Transportation complex to be built on State Highway 108 across from the county fairgrounds. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in November, and an agreement will be signed in January by all involved parties.
“We still have a lot of details to work out, but I’m excited to see the project get underway,” he said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.