A party is being held this Monday in honor of two locals as their retirement dates approach, one of whom is Fayette County Zoning Inspector Harold Skaggs.
The party is being hosted by the Fayette County Commissioners and, according to commissioner Jim Garland, is open to the public. It is set to begin at 4 p.m. at the OSU Extension Office, 1415 U.S. Route 22 in Washington C.H. The party is meant to be in honor of both Skaggs and Fayette County Zoning Board of Appeals member Ron Rockhold.
Although light refreshments will be provided, Garland said, “if someone wants to volunteer to bring anything or left-over Christmas stuff that hasn’t expired, I won’t complain.”
Skaggs has been working as the zoning inspector for approximately 14 years and prior to that managed the Fayette County Fairgrounds for approximately 22 years, meaning he worked in public service for 36 years.
“We’ve got to remember that we are here to help the people, and we have always made that a top priority,” said Skaggs. “The building department and I have worked very close together. Jay, the building official—we started out years ago, and we decided that we are here to help the people, and we would say that anything is possible. The ‘impossible’ just takes a little longer.”
Jay Myers is the chief building official for the Fayette County Building Department.
“We treated everybody with respect,” said Skaggs. “Everybody gets treated by the same set of rules.”
Although Skaggs didn’t say anything was particularly challenging, he did explain that some projects take a little more effort than others.
“I’ve actually been in some form of zoning since ‘96 or ‘97,” he said. “I’ve been on every zoning board, board of appeals, zoning commission for Union Township and I was also on some boards for YUSA, the tax abatement board for the mall on 35/71. Probably the most challenging one was getting all the hurdles crossed for Menards, changing the zoning—but it is a go now.”
“The ethanol plant over in Bloomingburg—I was instrumental in helping get that here and that was something that had never been done in Fayette County before,” explained Skaggs. “Cargill—where they take in hundreds of loads of grain a day to make ethanol. It gives farmers a better price on their grain, on their corn. That was pretty challenging and took a while to get done.”
“Another difficulty was The Ranch Of Opportunity,” he explained. “They were here trying to get established in Wayne Township. They met so much opposition that they decided not to have it down there. Union Township Trustees and myself talked to them about finding a place in Union Township. At first they had some problems, growing pains, but now they have 65 full-time employees down there.”
Then there are also the everyday issues such as what can or can’t be built at any given location, bank-related questions, etc. According to Skaggs, the phone rings non-stop every day with various questions.
During small intervals of downtime, Skaggs was able to take boxes of files from the basement, sit them by his desk and add files into their computer system for his future successors.
“Everything is on the computer now,” he said. “Hard copies exist but anyone who does this job now is two clicks away from finding anything that was done in the last 30 years. I took a long time to scan everything—every application has been scanned, every permit has been scanned and they are on the computers now.”
He explained they are now separated by township and alphabetized.
“It used to be, when you wanted a file, you’d have to go to the basement and sort through those boxes, which would sometimes take two to three hours to find. Now you can take three or four seconds and find the same paperwork,” he explained.
Even though he is retiring as the Fayette County Zoning Inspector, Skaggs has taken a position with Union Township doing the same job. Instead of working with the nine townships that were part of the county zoning, he will only have to focus on one and work a few days per week.
When asked why he will continue the same work, Skaggs explained, “I just to have something to do. My health is still good and I love helping the people. I’ve always loved the job of zoning.”
“The biggest part is you can help the people,” he further explained. “Most people that come in here may only do this once in their lifetime—like building a new house. When you look at it as doing it one time, it is very complicated. We do it many times a day, and we try to help the people. That is the most rewarding part of it.”
When asked about retirement plans or plans to occupy free time, Skaggs chuckled and said, “When you get old like me you don’t make too many long-range plans. You don’t even buy green bananas.”
“At my age, I just thought it was time to slow down a little bit,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun. I feel that the building department and zoning department working together has accomplished a lot here in Fayette County and has made this county a much better place to live and work and raise a family.”
Skaggs plans on being at the retirement party with Rockhold on Monday.
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @JennMWoods.