Friday, August 16th, 2013

County soil, water conservation agency hires Tobe for post

By Nancy Allen
The Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District hired a new watershed coordinator to replace Laura Walker, who has resigned to pursue a teaching position.
The board accepted Walker's resignation on Thursday at the regular meeting. Following a 30-minute executive session, board members hired her replacement, Abbey Tobe, who currently works as a manure management technician through the SWCD office. Tobe will earn $16.60 per hour; she starts in the new position Sept. 1.
Walker's last day in office was Wednesday. Walker, who was hired in 2007, took another position at Sinclair Community College teaching fire science classes.
SWCD administrator/education specialist Nikki Hawk said she will talk to Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials next week about the possibility of getting another manure management technician to replace Tobe once she becomes the new watershed coordinator.
Tobe is one of two manure management technicians working with Grand Lake Watershed farmers to help them comply with distressed watershed rules. The new rules resulted after the state designated the watershed distressed once humans and animals were sickened by algae toxins in the lake in 2010.
The two temporary manure technician positions are being funded by the ODNR. The state has twice allocated additional funding to keep the positions intact after SWCD and lake officials argued the posts should be made permanent.
Watershed farmers' nutrient management plans need redone every three years, which includes soil tests and livestock numbers. The plans will continue to need updating as long as the distressed designation remains. The technicians and other state officials will also start on-farm visits this year to check for compliance in record keeping and other areas. There are 156 livestock operations representing 270 farms in the lake watershed.
Board members on Thursday also approved Family Leave Act time for assistant conservation technician Charles Heckler from Aug. 15 to Oct. 25, unless he is cleared by a doctor to return earlier. He is recuperating from a non-work-related leg injury. The board also approved allowing technician Matt Heckler to donate 80 hours of paid sick leave to his father, whose paid sick leave has run out.
For its last personnel item, the board authorized maternity leave for SWCD engineer Theresa Dirksen from Aug. 9 to Oct. 7.
SWCD board members also,
• learned SWCD and state officials are proposing several more exploratory trenches be dug at the David and Joe Johnsman farm to locate faulty tile that could have caused a pollution incident reported on May 31. Rye leachate is suspected of originating from a silo on the farm and entering Twelve Mile Creek on Fairground Road just east of Fleetfoot Road. The case has been turned over to the state, and SWCD officials are monitoring it.
• reviewed one invalid allegation of improper manure application and three invalid pollution complaints.
• learned the SWCD office will receive 80 percent in state matching funds totaling $131,952 for the 2013-14 year, a decrease of about one percent from last year.
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