OTTAWA — What started out as an open meeting last week in the Putnam County Commissioners office about potential job loss in Ottawa evolved into potential benefits for every township and village in the county.

Commissioners John Love, Vincent Schroeder and Travis Jerwers sat down on Thursday with Village of Ottawa representatives, including Municipal Director Jack Williams, Clerk Treasurer Barb Hermiller, Mayor Dean Meyer and Ottawa Council President Tim Macke. The issue that prompted the 2 p.m. meeting was the anticipated move of Putnam County Homecare and Hospice offices from 139 Court Street, Ottawa, to 575 Ottawa Glandorf Road, the former home of The Meadows of Glandorf which is now county-owned.

The new location would mean a loss of approximately 40 jobs for Ottawa, according to Ottawa Wastewater Director Douglas Schroeder, who brought the situation to the attention of Williams, who in turn asked the Commissioners for confirmation of the move as well as that of the Putnam County Board of Elections and Putnam County Job and Family Services, all to the Glandorf location. Williams also asked for the reason behind relocation.

According to all three commissioners, an escape from flooding is the primary motivator for Putnam County Homecare and Hospice. The agency’s current second and third floor office space, owned by Doug and Karen Schroeder, is subject to accessibility issues due to major flood events. The agency’s board of directors is also interested in the additional space which a move to the Glandorf location offers. Flooding and space issues are also the primary reasons behind potential moves from county-owned buildings.

“It’s not just the flooding here,” said Love. “It’s the inability to get in and out of town. Homecare and Hospice is a 24/7 operation. It’s great that they moved to the second floor, but if you can’t get to the first floor, it just isn’t working.”

“Job and Family Services has some issues with flash floods. The storm line isn’t big enough to drain it when there’s a lot of rain,” said Schroeder. He and Love confirmed that the agency asked to be moved to the county-owned Glandorf location. According to Hermiller, the move will mean a loss of $23,000 in income tax for the Village.

“We understand that Trilogy Health Services moved both The Meadows of Putnam Acres and Glandorf to Ottawa,” explained Williams.

“So there’s going to be a net gain, isn’t there?” asked Love.

“There is a gain,” responded Williams, noting that The Meadows of Ottawa, currently under construction on Putnam Parkway in Ottawa, will employ 50. “However, we did not recruit them; they came to us. I was in the office when [former Village of Ottawa Community Development Director] Jeff Loerke asked them, ‘Do you really want to do this? We don’t want to be talking away from another community.’ It was their corporate decision.”

“As far as the Board of Elections, we pay a premium price because the voting machines are there, on top of our other insurance, because that’s a what they call a marine policy,” said Love. He and Schroeder explained that they anticipate that those county offices left open by the any future move will be repopulated as the Commissioners intend to market them to prospective businesses. However, both acknowledge that the county’s government annex is an aging building in need of roof and wall repairs.

“OK, at least you guys recognize that flooding is an issue,” said Williams. “So far the county has not gone on record in support of Ottawa’s flood mitigation stuff,” he continued, noting that Love and Jerwers have both made public statements in support of the effort. “Is this something that you guys can do as a resolution then, supporting the flood mitigation for the Village of Ottawa?”

“I think we always have,” said V. Schroeder. “I can’t think of anytime we haven’t, except financially.”

“I don’t think think we’re asking for that now, but we did talk about disaster assistance,” responded Williams.

“At a mayor’s meeting we talked about the county having a line item in the budget for disaster fund for the county,” said Meyer. “That would get around. Columbus Grove, for example, does not want to support Ottawa flooding. But if it’s in there for Putnam County, they would support a line item for disaster relief in the county.” He added that the county’s mayors speculated such relief could be funded by a portion of casino money. The Ohio Department of Taxation distributes casino tax monies monthly to each county across the state. Putnam County received $212,856 two quarterly distributions of Ohio’s gross casino revenue tax for fiscal year 2014; July and October 2013.

Schroeder expressed concern over designating county monies for individual disaster relief. “The county’s responsibility is to take care of county stuff. Once we cross that line into other jurisdictions, where do you designate that money should go?”

Love said that what was being suggested is “something like a revolving loan fund” that would be available to all towns, villages and townships in the county with sufficient evidence of the need for disaster relief.

“Some of these communities like Cloverdale could come for start-up money,” countered Williams, referring to the widespread damage experienced by the small community during the Nov. 17 tornado. “We have to grow as a county. We can’t afford to have these communities die because it really doesn’t help any of us if they can’t keep their businesses open or if they can’t grow.”

Doug Schroeder added that he and his wife Karen have invested their own funds in downtown Ottawa since the 2007 flood. “It is tough. As a member of the community, as a member of the county, we need everybody to support each other. We can’t do it all alone.”

The meeting concluded with an agreement by the Commissioners to provide Ottawa with a formal resolution in support of the Blanchard River flood mitigation and the study underway by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to look into the possibility of a revolving loan fund or some sort of monies to support disaster relief within Putnam County, and to provide feedback as the Village of Ottawa revises its community development plan, an effort which was last made in 1971.