Richland County courthouse

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

MANSFIELD -- Richland County commissioners are not allowing Chuck Minnich to retire without a fight.

But on Thursday, they took a step toward letting him go, hiring his planned eventual replacement.

The long-time county maintenance superintendent, who unsuccessfully tried to retire earlier this year before commissioners talked him into staying, appeared to again be headed out the door on Dec. 22.

Instead, Minnich now will stick around until around May 2022, allowing him time to train Josh Hicks, a maintenance department employee who commissioners promoted to assistant maintenance superintendent on Thursday morning.

Hicks, a Clear Fork High School graduate and Butler resident, had seven years of maintenance work experience before joining the county about a year ago.

Minnich laughed when asked what it will take to finally end his 37-year-plus career with the county, the last 18-plus as maintenance superintendent.

"We'll make it eventually," he said.

During a meeting with Minnich and Hicks, commissioners went over the proposed 2022 maintenance budget, including a proposed $1,289,000 in capital projects.

Almost half of that ($577,000) is targeted for the demolition and space clearing on "L2" at the courthouse, a floor that was once home to jail cells for the sheriff's department.

That includes $350,000 to remove the cells, $200,000 for a new HVAC system for that portion of the building and $27,000 to replace the windows in that area, Minnich said.

 The eventual goal of the "tear out" project is to create a fourth Richland County Common Pleas general division courtroom.

Commissioners in June signed a contract with AJB Engineering Consultants of Mansfield to examine and verify any structural concerns with the demolition project, as well as examine potential asbestos and lead paint concerns in the space, about 7,500 square feet.

Once that work is completed and the space is remodeled, it appears commissioners are poised to move the Clerk of Courts office, currently on the third floor, down to L2.

The clerk's space would then be remodeled into a fourth courtroom, available to the two judges and the three general division magistrates.

No cost estimates for the remodel and relocation project have been identified yet, commissioners said.

Also on Thursday, commissioners met with Jodie Perry, president and CEO of Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development, to discuss a promotional campaign aimed at supporting local small businesses during the upcoming holiday season and into early 2022.

"It's an opportunity for us to promote our local small businesses, especially coming off the COVID-19 pandemic," Perry said.

The Chamber leader said, as of Thursday morning, 80 local small businesses had signed up to participate in the campaign.

"Those businesses we support hire local people, so we would also be helping local employment issues," Commissioner Darrell Banks said.

Commissioners approved spending up to $16,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds on the effort, if county Administrator Andrew Keller determines it's an appropriate usage of ARPA funds.

"I am not prejudging it, but certainly small business is something contemplated by the (ARPA) guidance," Keller said. "Every decision we make is with an eye toward (ARPA) guidance put forth by the Treasury Department."

If it's allowable, the county would subcontract with the Chamber, which is working primarily on the campaign with Source Brand Solutions and the Richland Source website, as well as some radio advertising.

The campaign focuses on the "Richland County holiday shopping guide" on the Richland Source website, which will include local discounts, deals and a guide to "Small Business Saturday," the traditional shopping day after the post-Thanksgiving "Black Friday."

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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?"