Richland County courthouse

The Richland County Administration Building is located at 50 Park Ave. East in downtown Mansfield.

MANSFIELD -- Richland County commissioners remained non-committal on Tuesday about the possibility of any evening meetings in 2022.

During the first meeting of the year, in which Tony Vero was chosen to chair the board of commissioners for the next 12 months, all three elected officials said such a meeting(s) could be scheduled if the meeting topic were of particular public importance.

Commissioners were asked if evening sessions could generate more public interest in local government. During the November general election, just one in five registered Richland County voters participated. In the May primary, voter participation was just under 5 percent.

Commissioners, whose Tuesday and Thursday daytime meetings are available live on the internet, had had one evening meeting in 2021, a public hearing in August for a proposed combined ditch petition with Crawford County.

The session filled a large meeting room at the county-owned Longview Center, largely comprised of property owners concerned over the potential for increased taxes due to the project.

"Last year, we used that ditch petition meeting as a night meeting," Vero said. "There was a great deal of public interest.

"If we feel there is a meeting of particular public importance ... though I would like to think anything (commissioners do) is of public importance ... we will play that by ear. If we think (it warrants an evening meeting), we will look into it," Vero said.

Commissioner Darrell Banks said, "I think we could be persuaded to have some night meetings if someone could convince us (of the public interest).

"I think we live in somewhat of a cocoon society. Once we get home (from work), we don't like to go back out again."

Asked about his priorities during 2022, the new board chair cited finishing the new communications tower in Lucas and the potential for a fourth general division courtroom in the county administration.

Both of those projects are underway. Banks said excavation is set to begin for the tower's foundation and that "deconstruction" of the jail cells on "L2" inside the administration is underway.

Vero also cited the need for improved signage at county-owned buildings, including the Longview Center and the Peoples Community Center.

"Signage for the buildings owned by the county is important," he said. "There are a lot of important public functions being done (in these buildings). We need the visitors and taxpayers to know these are county buildings."

Also on Tuesday, commissioners met with Rachel Troyer, the county's central services coordinator, and Hannah McKee, wellness coordinator for the County Employment Benefit Consortium of Ohio.

The duo went over numbers related to county employees' participation in the annual wellness plan. About 55 percent of eligible county workers and their spouses took part in the wellness plan from August 2020 to August 2021.

McKee said the participation rate declined when the COVID-19 pandemic began, but has "been slowly rising again."

Troyer said employees who successfully complete the wellness plan each year, which includes things like preventative medical appointments, exercise and annual bloodwork, are placed on the lower-deductible portion of the county's employee insurance plan.

Support Our Journalism

Our reporting empowers people to individually and collectively achieve progress in our region. Help make free, local, independent journalism sustainable by becoming a Source Member.

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"