County commissioners look to transportation, housing and more for 2023

(C) File photo Fairfield County commissioner Steve Davis

LANCASTER – Fairfield County commissioner Steve Davis has studied the county’s public transportation access for the past year or so. He learned even more about the county’s transportation issues working as an Uber driver. Now as commission president, he said he’ll continue to evaluate local transportation in 2023.

“The transit system (Lancaster-Fairfield Public Transit) is a city department and not a county department,” Davis said. “So I’ve had some conversations with the mayor of Lancaster (David Scheffler) and some members of Lancaster City Council to just make sure they understand my desire to look at the transit system and see if it’s where it should be or could be. “It’s not meant to be disrespectful in any way to what they’ve done so far. I just think there’s a possibility that it could be better resourced and perhaps leaning into the connection between the workforce and employers.”

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Davis said along with the city, he wants to include the federal government and the Ohio Department of Transportation in looking at local transportation.

MORE: County commissioner Steve Davis sees local transportation issues firsthand as Uber driver “That will be a big priority this year to have that discussion and conclude that discussion,” he said. “I think that’s important, too. Because there have been situations over the past 20 years where the county government or other local governments talk something to death with no conclusion.

Obviously, our management philosophy is to avoid that scenario.” Davis takes over as commission president from Jeff Fix. The commissioners usually serve as president on a rotating basis.

Last year Fix instituted a few changes to the weekly commission meetings, including holding several night meetings at various locations in the county. Davis said that will continue this year. He also wants to continue the discussion this year about three possible solar farm projects in the county.

The targeted areas are Walnut Township, Amanda Township and Liberty Township. The developers want to build solar farms to eventually sell electricity to utility companies. But no developer has yet signed filed an application with the Ohio Power Siting Board.

However, Davis said he thinks someone will file an application this year. “I anticipate both sides of that argument being very passionate, which is a good thing,” Davis said. “But the last many years there have been times when that passion has kind of boiled over, if you will. We want to be respectful of all the different points of view, but at the same time manage that discussion in the most professional way possible.”

Fix has in the past talked about providing more affordable housing for county workers, which Davis said will continue to be a priority this year. For Fix, the biggest issue this year is to continue developing the county’s workforce. “We’ve got so many more jobs available than we have people to fill them,” he said. “But as you dig into that and find reasons why some people are not able to be fully employed or attain the levels that they might, those are the issues we’re going to spend some time on.”

Fix referenced Davis’ work on transportation and also said the commissioners are working on housing and poverty in general. “Those are big ideas and big issues, so that’s where I think we’re going to spend a lot of our time this year,” Fix said. “In addition to, obviously, continuing to run the county as well as it’s ever been run and being in the strongest financial position it’s ever been in.” This year will also see transportation officials working on a plan to ease congestion as traffic comes off Interstate 70 onto Ohio 256 in Pickerington.

Fix said it probably won’t be until 2024 when construction of new roads and ramps could start. “But it’s in progress and moving forward,” he said. Commissioner Dave Levacy said 2023 is not all about changing course.

“It’s actually doing more of the same,” he said. “And I think that will include being prepared for what could possibly come in the future (new industry). That would be dealing with infrastructure like roads, water, sewer and those sort of things that make us prepared for what may come in the future.” Levacy said the county must continue its focus on workforce development this year, especially through the Fairfield County Workforce Center in Carroll.

“We have high hopes of what that could possibly bring to the residents of Fairfield County,” he said. “In particular, providing skill sets that could ultimately provide high-paying jobs for those who are willing to participate.” Levacy will get a closer look at workforce development this year as Gov. Mike DeWine recently appointed him to the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board.

“I look very much being involved in that on the state level because what we’re doing here in Fairfield County can be applied throughout the state,” Levacy said. [email protected] 740-681-4340

Twitter: @JeffDBarron

This article originally appeared on Lancaster Eagle-Gazette: County commissioners look to transportation, housing and more for 2023

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