The Washington Rotary Club invited local candidates and representatives of the issues facing the community to a “Meet The Candidates” lunch on Tuesday afternoon.
The lunch was held at the Rusty Keg Crown Room in Washington Court House and featured a lunch of carrots, green beans, rice and pork chops, as well as a slice of pie for dessert. After the meal was served, several people spoke to the crowd before any candidates or levy representatives introduced themselves:
A representative from the Chillicothe Rotary Club invited the guests to join them for their centennial celebration, which will feature International Rotary President Ian H.S. Riseley as its honored guest.
A former foreign exchange student through the Washington Rotary Club visited after returning to Finland about 16 years ago, and spoke about how much he enjoyed the program.
Two students, Keiya Satoh from Washington High School and Tanner Bryant from Miami Trace High School, spoke about their extracurricular activities and plans for after graduation.
Two representatives for upcoming local renewal levies were then introduced by Bambi Baughn before the deputy health commissioner at the Fayette County Health Department, Leigh Cannon, spoke first. Cannon said the health department is seeking a five-year, .5-mill renewal levy, which is one of two levies the community has paid for since the late 1980’s.
“My passion for public health runs deeps, so I am not running for office, but I do care about our health department,” Cannon said. “We have grown since I first started as the deputy seven years ago from 21 staff members to 41. That is because we have expanded programs and services, and have received great funding opportunities like the two levies that we have. We are asking for support for our smaller levy this year, the five-year. Next year we are going to be asking for support for the 10-year, but this one generates about $188,000 a year.”
Cannon said this is roughly 15 percent of the health department’s budget and the cost to homeowners is about $20 a year per $100,000 house. She said the funding in the county is unique and is one of the many reasons she loves the community.
“I have worked with a bunch of other health commissioners from a whole bunch of other counties and we are really unique in how we work together,” Cannon said. “They don’t have the support from local agencies like we do. So thanks to the community support, we are almost all levy funded and that helps keep our costs low.”
These costs, Cannon explained, are for documents like birth or death certificates, for services such as septic inspections, or for immunizations. She encouraged the community to vote at the Nov. 7 election to renew the levy and help keep this funding for the health department.
The second local issue on the ballot is the Fayette County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ (Board of DD) 10-year, 1.75-mill renewal levy for operations, services and acquisitions. Jan Cobb, nurse for the board of DD and an early intervention specialist, spoke about the levy and how that money helps many residents of the county with mental or physical handicaps.
“It is so rewarding to come back to talk to a group that helped support our community and our school systems the way you do,” Cobb said. “The big thing everyone wants to know is ‘Why should I support it?’ I have a lot of reasons for that, but number one is we are not asking for any new tax dollars. We need it, because much like the health department, 72 percent of the board’s budget comes from levy dollars. Every state, county, they handle developmental disabilities differently and we depend much on local support dollars, so we thank you for that.”
Of the many programs offered by the Board of DD, Cobb talked about what she does for the board by helping young kids (age 0 to 3) get services through early intervention. Additionally, they conduct home visits, hold therapies (including physical therapists, a speech-language pathologist, speech therapy, occupational therapy) and much more. This team will visit with children to help determine what they need.
Other services and programs offered include Special Olympic athletic programs, preschool programs and School to Work transition programs that bring together various community businesses and partners. These volunteers and employees help to prepare Fayette County residents with disabilities to be productive members of society throughout life.
“We also have adults with disabilities who are supported in training, placement, housing and services, especially for those who can no longer live with their parents,” Cobb said. “There are some who have never had parental support and others who still live with parents, but as their parents age, they still need support. So we have group homes in the community and we have a social and support administration that coordinates all of those services for the people we serve. Your support is vital and we couldn’t do it without you. I would appreciate your support on election day to keep DD going.”
Stay with the Record-Herald this week for more preview coverage of the Nov. 7 general election.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy