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Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Laffin to head new lake CIC

By Shelley Grieshop

Mercer and Auglaize counties' commissioners and Mercer County Economic Developme. . .

GRAND LAKE - Mercer County Commissioner Jerry Laffin will head up the newly-formed, two-county Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Community Improvement Corporation (CIC).
The CIC's voting members will be the six county commissioners from Mercer and Auglaize counties. At a Tuesday meeting, the commissioners also appointed an advisory council for the organization.
The advisory council will include Mercer County Economic Development Director Jared Ebbing, Auglaize County Commissioner Doug Spencer, Lake Restoration Commission (LRC) facilitator Tom Knapke, LRC member Tim Lovett and local grant writer Ron Puthoff of Chickasaw. Those members are the same people currently serving as the legislative subcommittee for the LRC.
Final approval of the CIC's formation must come from the offices of the Ohio Attorney General and Secretary of State after local officials complete the application process.
The initial cost of establishing the CIC is estimated at $10,000 to $20,000 - the majority stemming from attorney fees - and will be paid equally by the two counties.
The CIC's main purpose is "to better enable the region to work in concert with the state of Ohio" to restore Grand Lake and improve the economic vitality of the local region, as stated in a vision statement adopted by commissioners Tuesday.
State and federal agencies requested the development of such an organization as a single go-to entity, commissioners said.
"This body is here as a springboard to get what our state legislators have asked for," Spencer explained.
The CIC also will serve as the administrator for funding, oversee all projects designed to battle the blue-green algae problem and promote future water quality.
"This is just another tool in the toolbox," Ebbing added.
Auglaize County Commissioner John Bergman said the CIC is not meant to replace ongoing efforts by other groups such as the LRC or Lake Improvement Association.
"We're providing a viable legal entity, not to discredit anyone," he said.
The CIC is being established to handle the immediate needs of the region. However, its future is admittedly uncertain, members said Tuesday. The hope is it will become obsolete when a more permanent "hybrid" is put into place down the road, Ebbing said, adding he doesn't yet know what that might be at this time.
Other items approved on Tuesday were the election of Spencer as vice president, Mercer County Commissioner Bob Nuding as treasurer and Bergman as secretary.
CIC members also approved action to establish an account at First Financial Bank and apply for a tax identification number for the organization. They also approved various policies the board must follow.
The commissioners initially discussed filing an application for a nonprofit status at a cost of $4,000 to $6,000. However, they decided to table the issue temporarily until the need is warranted.
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