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The Daily



12-12-03: Board supports lake drawdown to lessen flooding of farmland


Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) board members Thursday agreed to write a letter to ODNR officials asking them to draw down the water level in Grand Lake St. Marys during the winter in an attempt to lessen spring flooding of agricultural land.
The action came at the request of SWCD board member Don Broering.
“I’ve had some people contact me and ask if the SWCD would support a drawdown of the lake so we don’t have the flooding in the spring,” Broering said. “I think it’s a common sense thing. If we’re a board then maybe we can put some pressure on ODNR to do something about it.”
During times of heavy precipitation, excess water flows from the lake over the West Bank spillway and into Beaver Creek, which empties into the Wabash River in southern Liberty Township. Mercer County farmers with agricultural land along Beaver Creek and the Wabash River have experienced flooding for years caused by excess overflow from the lake. Much of the agricultural land that floods is in a floodplain.
In a related matter, five Mercer County farmers are suing the Ohio Department of Natural Resources over flooding of their land they claim is caused by the spillway and how ODNR officials manage it.
The civil lawsuit was filed in Mercer County Common Pleas Court on behalf of Leo Post, 882 Carmel Church Road, Richard Baucher, 3417 Ohio 29, Jack Minch, 7135 Ohio 49, Steve Zumberge, 4422 Ohio 29, and Terry Linn, 7018 Ohio-Indiana State Line Road. In the suit they claim their land has been destroyed by flooding ever since ODNR rebuilt and increased the amount of water released by the spillway in 1997.
The farmers say flooding from the spillway makes their agricultural land useless and that the use of their land to store floodwater from the lake constitutes an illegal “taking” of their land and they want compensated for it.
A motion by ODNR to dismiss the case was denied by Judge Jeffrey Ingraham. No trial date has been set in the case.
Mercer SWCD board members Thursday agreed to have Dublin-based Clemans Nelson & Associates revise the pay scale for the district’s seven employees. Board members made the decision following a presentation by Clemans official Cindy Sreenan, who explained the revision process.
Mercer County Commissioners have urged SWCD officials to have the pay scales revision done and has agreed to pay the roughly $3,000 price tag for the service.
The county already uses Clemans services and has a pay range for all county employees upon which salaries and raises are based, Sreenan told board members.
Sreenan said a position description would first be determined for each employee by speaking with them and their immediate supervisor. Then a wage survey would be done by gathering salary information from state employees with jobs similar to those held by Mercer SWCD employees, and then finally a point factor analysis is done to determine the pay range for each position. The analysis consists of 16 various criteria, she said.
It would take about two months to complete, she said.
Sreenan said Clemans Nelson & Associates has never recommended a pay scale reduction for any employee after doing a pay scale revision.
SWCD board member Leisa Boley Hellwarth agreed to work with Clemans on the pay scale revision.
The SWCD board of supervisors will make the final decision on whether or not to accept any of the pay scale revisions.
SWCD board members also on Thursday agreed to be the signatory agent for a 7-year, $191,048 watershed coordinator grant for the Wabash Watershed Alliance (WWA). WWA officials learned in August that — due to an oversight by ODNR officials when the grant was processed — that the WWA was not an officially organized entity and therefore would not be eligible for the grant funds, which pay for the WWA coordinator’s salary and benefits. Before the discovery, the WWA and SWCD officials thought the WWA was under the direction of the SWCD.
SWCD board members on Thursday also:
• Granted a 2.3 percent cost of living raise to all SWCD employees effective Jan. 1, 2004.
•Approved a $16,096 lease agreement with county commissioners for office space in the Mercer County Central Services Building. The rent went up about $820.


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