Commissioners discuss initiatives behind the scenes at ‘State of the County’ event


While it may not be as visible or glamorous as commercial, residential and transportation projects, there are other initiatives Delaware County is working on, which were outlined recently by county commissioners.

“It’s been a fun-filled year packed with learning,” said Barb Lewis at the annual “State of the County” address March 17 at the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce’s Third Thursday luncheon. Lewis, the commission president in 2016, spoke of strategic new hires such as communications manager Jane Hawes; director of sanitary engineering and development Michael Frommer; and economic development director Bob Lamb.

She said to stay tuned for the hiring a of new administrator. The next day, the county announced the hiring of Ferzan M. Ahmed.

Lewis also discussed the “Lean Six Sigma” efficiency training program funded with a $17,000 grant from the state. The term combines Toyota’s “Lean” continuous improvement of work flow and Motorola’s “Six Sigma” defect-free manufacturing process.

“In recent years, these methodologies have been combined to create a more streamlined training program adaptable to a wide variety of industries and business goals,” Lewis said. The county is going to apply these methods to its environmental services department, and eventually to other departments, she said.

The county is also trying to improve its outreach, Lewis said, pointing to efforts to get lower trash rates for residents in Genoa, Liberty and Orange townships.

Commissioner Gary Merrell discussed the county’s sanitary sewer master plan. He said that since becoming a commissioner in 2013, he has learned more about sewers than he ever wanted to know. The master plan, he said, assesses “Delaware County’s current and future needs over (a) five-year, 10-year and looking towards a 20-year scenario for population growth and development.”

Columbus-based engineering firm HDR Inc. began work on the master plan last year, and it should be completed this year.

“By early May, HDR will present its recommendations for future service areas, as well as modeling for system maintenance and upgrades,” Merrell said.

The longest-tenured of the three, Merrell said he and his fellow commissioners are “really working well together.”

Jeff Benton, the newest commissioner, said the county’s economic development team is working on a strategic plan and business retention study this year. The strategic plan will include input derived from more than 60 meetings with business leaders, organizations and the public.

“This plan will help set economic development priorities for the county for the next decade,” Benton said.

The retention study will help the county determine issues facing the business community, and what steps the county can take to diminish negative issues.

Vice president Benton also talked about conducting intra-county government studies on wages, health insurance and long-term facilities needs to make sure Delaware is in line with other local and similar counties. He said he wanted to institute zero-based budgeting; monthly forecasts of cash flow and financial results for the rest of the year after each month; five-year projections of cash flow and financial results; central purchasing decisions; and leveraging staff expertise in accounting and finance.

Finally, Benton said the county wanted to build better relationships with cities and villages, townships, regional groups and service organizations.

During the question-and-answer portion of the presentation, commissioners said they would look into ways to reduce semi-truck traffic in the city of Delaware, but “it’s gotta go somewhere.”

By Gary Budzak

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Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.

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