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Friday, November 25th, 2011

New lake group would oversee funds

By Shelley Grieshop
GRAND LAKE - Officials are seeking a second attempt at legislation to create a special board for Grand Lake-related ventures and funding.
The Grand Lake St. Marys Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) - consisting of commissioners from Mercer and Auglaize counties - on Tuesday discussed plans to successfully pass legislation to create a state-sanctioned Lake Facilities Authority (LFA). They also talked about hiring a full-time director.
Legislation to create the LFA passed in the Ohio Senate but failed in the House earlier this year. CIC members agreed the bill, drafted by Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, and other attorneys, garnered little attention as legislators worked to pass a controversial state budget plan.
The CIC and the local Lake Restoration Commission (LRC) believe a LFA board or commission is necessary to oversee all lake-related projects and serve as funding administrator. The CIC currently handles many of those duties but was only established as a temporary agent until an LFA could be created.
Several lake-related organizations, including the LRC, likely would not disband if an LFA is organized, officials have said. In past CIC meetings, it was noted that members likely would be tapped to serve on LFA advisory committees.
The proposed LFA would include a board of directors and advisory council. It would resemble a conservancy, travel and tourism and soil and water district, and have elements of a port authority.
Commissioners and CIC project director Jared Ebbing agreed Tuesday to schedule a meeting in January with Ohio House Rep. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, to garner support for their plan. They hope Buchy will persuade his colleagues to support the endeavor.
Ebbing suggested and CIC members concurred that a committee to work on the LFA legislation should be formed. He will discuss the idea with LRC members.
CIC members agreed most of the wording in the initially-proposed legislation was adequate but may need "tweaked" to gain full support from Senate and House members.
The CIC board also discussed the possibility of hiring a full-time person to lead the LFA, or at the very least, handle administrative duties until an LFA is formed. Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) officials have vowed to financially support such a position for at least three years, Ebbing said.
The amount of financial support promised by ODNR was not given. No action on the issue was taken by the CIC.
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