Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017
Extension post won't be filled
By William Kincaid
CELINA - Mercer County commissioners have decided not to fill the OSU Extension's family consumer science educator position left vacant after the retirement of Barb Hennard on July 31.
Hennard had served as an FCS educator in Auglaize and Mercer counties, teaching and promoting safe food practices, nutrition, finances and relationships, among other duties. Each county had contributed $20,000 toward her salary, with state and federal funds paying the rest, according to extension interim regional director Mark Light. In June, Light had told commissioners that extension officials would like to address the vacancy in some capacity by fall.
At that time, Light had laid out several options, including having each county hire its own FCS educator at a cost of $40,000 apiece.
Commissioner Jerry Laffin on Tuesday afternoon said his board had decided after recently meeting with Auglaize County commissioners.
"There was some duplication, we thought," Laffin said about the services carried out through the position.
Some services, though, will be picked up by other individuals, agencies and organizations.
"We're continuing to support extension," commissioner Greg Homan added.
County extension educator Denny Riethman expressed dismay at the commissioners' decision, explaining that Hennard spent a lot of time working with numerous agencies to coordinate programs.
"I was surprised that we're not going to fill it," he told the newspaper this morning. "We're going to have to refer people to other counties (for some programs)."
Hennard had focused much of her time and energy on ServSafe Manager Certification food-safety classes for workers at operations including restaurants, schools, health-care centers, gas stations, campgrounds, parks and other businesses serving food, Light had said.
"Certification is required by the Ohio Department of Health," a report presented to commissioners stated. "Since February 2016, over 300 food service managers have been certified."
Laffin said it appears some overlap existed between Hennard and county health department personnel in running ServeSafe.
"There's no sense in having (both of them) doing it," he said.
Tri Star Career Compact Director Tim Buschur on Tuesday afternoon said his organization is willing to take over ServSafe.
"We're trying to just help out. It's not obviously for profit, but as long as we break even and if it's something with the new facility, if we can lead into that, we're happy to do that," he said, adding a Tri Star teacher is pursuing certification. "But I didn't want to step on anybody's toes, either ... that we're trying to take something from somebody."
Buschur told the newspaper this morning that Tri Star's adult education program may assume the ServeSafe program for Mercer and Auglaize counties, working in conjunction at first with the county health departments. Classes likely will be available this fall at Tri Star, he said.
"We're glad you're willing to step up and fill this role," commissioner Rick Muhlenkamp told Buschur.
"Well, that's kind of the stuff we want to start doing if we have the opportunity and hopefully we'll do some other things like that," Buschur said about Tri Star, which is gearing up for a Sept. 15 groundbreaking on the $25 million, 100,000-square-foot, two-story Tri Star 2.0 project facility across from Wright State University-Lake Campus. The building will house the career compact's 15 existing programs - and a new health program - which are spread across six facilities.
"If they're going to do the whole works, that will help (director of environmental health) Michelle Kimmel out in the health department," Laffin said.
Another key focus of Hennard's was the Dining with Diabetes education series for diabetics and their families, an initiative supported by Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys and Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater, Light had pointed out.
"The educator has participated on a team that created, monitors and responds to an online class that evolved from the 'Dining with Diabetes,' " the report states.
Hennard also had many other duties, including answering consumer questions about food safety, home food preservation and nutrients in food; providing online health and wellness education messages through the extension's Live Healthy Live Well challenges; and participating in the Grand Health Challenge, Community Health Improvement Plans and other state and national committees.
Another of Hennard's crucial roles was working with the Mercer County Juvenile Probate Court to provide court-ordered, co-parenting classes for adults navigating the court system on custody and visitation issues, according to Light.