Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
By Shelley Grieshop
Private money will fund full-time Extension educator
Restoring Grand Lake
  CELINA - Local officials on Tuesday were given the green light to expand the OSU Extension staff to assist its efforts toward Grand Lake's woes.
In a phone conference Tuesday with OSU regional director Stephen Wright, Mercer County Commissioners were told to proceed with a plan to privately raise funds to subsidize the salaries of three OSU Extension positions.
"I presented your proposals and everything looks great," Wright told commissioners. "We're excited about this and are ready to move forward."
The changes include boosting Extension educator Jim Hoorman's job from part-time to full-time status exclusively in Mercer County. Hoorman, a longtime OSU Extension employee with expertise in cover crops, filter strips and manure management, currently spends 2 1/2 days each week working in the county and the remaining time on state, regional and national projects for OSU.
Hoorman was hired by the county in August 2009 and has been working diligently to educate farmers on better management practices, officials said. Commissioners believe his efforts are helping reduce the amount of phosphorus entering Grand Lake by preventing farm field run-off. Phosphorus from manure applications supports the growth of blue-green algae, which has been producing toxins in the lake.
To help Hoorman devote more time to specific agricultural issues, the county also will partly fund a part-time horticultural specialist and a field program assistant.
The estimated cost of the plan includes $19,100 for Hoorman's position, $8,000 for the horticultural specialist and $15,000 for the field program assistant. Commissioners also hope to raise enough money to set aside approximately $7,900 for mileage, educational supplies and other expenses, if needed.
Commissioner Jerry Laffin said the county is seeking $50,000 per year for two years in private donations to pay the salaries and other expenses. They've already received calls from individuals and businesses in the agriculture sector who are interested in donating toward the cause, they said.
Laffin said the plan is to deposit the funds with the Mercer County Civic Foundation - a nonprofit organization in Celina - instead of the county's general fund to give the "stakeholders" more control of the money.
"We'll do what the stakeholders want to do with the money," Laffin said.
A portion of the funds likely will be sent monthly to the regional OSU Extension office to cut the checks for the employees, he said.
Laffin asked Wright for an official letter with approval for the changes to use as verification for interested donors. Wright said the letter would be drafted Monday or Tuesday.
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