Fulton County is reportedly entering 2019 financially sound and economically fervent, and with some notable advancements.
But the good news is tempered with concerns about the county’s workforce strength and a need for some infrastructure repair.
According to Fulton County Administrator Vond Hall, the county budget for 2019 totals $55,308,430, somewhat lower than the $61,828,280 budget for 2018. The higher amount last year was indicative of projects taken on by the county.
Hall listed the beginning of renovations to the courthouse in Wauseon among the county’s top acheivements in 2018. Renovations will include an historic restoration of the Common Pleas courtroom, replacement of the heating and cooling systems, the addition of security and technology features, installation of a new American Disabilities Act-compliant elevator, and updates to the Clerk of Courts office and the Probate and Juvenile courtroom and offices.
Plans for courthouse updates floated for decades, but were finally jump-started in 2016. Completed in 1872, the courthouse is the third courthouse in the county’s history, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Hall said another of the county’s major successes last year was the completion of an energy conservation program in numerous county-owned buildings.
“As we replace aging mechanical units we replace them with much higher energy efficient units, and with the growth in technology we are able to reduce our utility consumption, saving taxpayer dollars,” he said.
He also mentioned the county’s effort to keep communication open with state and federal officials, a practice that keeps local officials updated on program funding.
Hall said Fulton County’s top priority in 2019 should be the continued upkeep of public assets, which is more cost-effective than replacing them.
Calling the county “economically aggressive and vibrant,” he said numerous areas of industry have expressed interest in investing in and locating businesses locally. He said the county already exports billions of dollars annually in agricultural products, steel, machined, and wood products, and automotive supplies.
“Fulton County has a very strong transportation system,” and adequate, dependable utility services, Hall said. He added, “And we are blessed with a terrific location. More than 60 percent of North America’s population is located within an eight-hour drive of Fulton County.”
Commissioner Jeff Rupp said the county is financially solid because of good fiscal management. “The three commissioners are very focused on watching county expenses. We’re not spending the residents’ money unnecessarily,” he said.
Rupp did say county revenue depends heavily on sales taxes, and fluctuations in the economy make it difficult to predict results for 2019.
Still, he said, “I feel very positive about the direction of Fulton County.”
The one weakness in the county’s economic growth opportunities may be an adequate supply of labor, he said.
“Like many other counties in Ohio and across the nation, companies that are interested in growing or are considering locating here are concerned about finding the amount of workers that they need to produce their product or service,” Hall said.
And while it’s too soon to determine how negatively the tariff wars in Washington will affect the county, “our agricultural community has always adapted to change, whether it’s weather or markets,” he said.
Hall rated the county’s infrastructure as satisfactory, but said the local bridge network needs attention. Unfortunately, he said, state and federal funding remains flat and construction costs continue to increase. Both factors decrease the number of projects to be completed.
He emphasized that county officials recognize the demand by residents for fiscal responsibility. “It is important to all of us that we pay attention to the needs of county residents. How public funds are allocated and spent allows us the opportunity to be responsive.”
Hall said the best way a resident can express their needs and concerns is to participate in the public process.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.