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Newsletter - January 2019


Happy New Year and welcome to the January edition of Commissioner Connection!

brown-(1).jpg I’m so proud of all that we accomplished last year, and excited to tell you about some of what we have planned for 2019.  I’m also honored to have been chosen by my colleagues to serve as president of the Board of Commissioners this year.  It’s a role I’ve taken on several times in years past, and one that I’m excited to get to fill again this year. 

As we do at the end of each year, we finished out 2018 by passing the budget for 2019.  This is a very involved process in which our staff and the staffs of all of the county’s elected officials closely examine our shared goals, responsibilities, and priorities for the coming year.  Franklin County is the largest and one of the fastest growing counties in Ohio, so this year’s budget is focused squarely on the future—reducing spending from last year, adding to the county’s cash reserves, protecting our Double Triple-A bond rating, and appropriating funds for services as well as development.  You can read all about it at

Some other highlights of 2018 included joining the nationwide opiate lawsuit against drug makers and distributers, kicking off the new Building Futures program to connect low-income county social services clients with a pathway to well-paid middle class jobs in the building trades, releasing a first-of-its-kind study on energy use in our community, and our Economic Development and Planning team won multiple national awards, as did several of our other programs.   We’re also proud of our role in helping to save the Columbus Crew, and excited to be able to roll out a new brand for the county’s website, signage, and materials.  In addition to the new, fresh, modern look, the new branding comes with a renewed focus on why we do what we do with the new tagline: Every Resident, Every Day.   

In this edition of Commissioner Connection, you can look forward to learning about the Holiday Sleepover program at the dog shelter, the new ability to text to 911 in an emergency, and one of our county partners, Physicians Care Connection, as well as our usual articles about all the exciting programs and great staff we have here at the Board of Commissioners office.

Thanks again for taking the time to read our quarterly newsletter, and feel free to reach out to our office via the Board of Commissioners’ website.  You can also keep track of everything that is going on in our community by following the board on Facebook and Twitter as we continue working to help Franklin County to be a great place to build a business or raise a family.


Marilyn Brown
President, Franklin County Commissioner



PROSPEROUS-FUTURES-HARD-HATS-(1).jpgBeginning on January 23rd, residents all over Franklin County have a new option to call for help in an emergency.  They can now text directly to 911.

The ability to quickly call for help in an emergency, and to know that help will be on the way and that dispatchers even know the caller’s location, is something that most of us take for granted.  This remarkable system still has room to improve, however.  For decades, typical methods used by people in the deaf community to call for help were slow and sometimes not available at all.  Likewise, there are cases in which the caller cannot easily speak because of illness or injury, or because doing so would alert an attacker to their presence.

Now, residents of Franklin County can simply send a text to emergency dispatchers in an emergency.  Just like when making a cell phone call, however, the ability to text is subject to cell signal availability.  Texting is similar in other ways, too, in that a text to 911 will go to the same dispatching center that a call would go to, and the same operators will dispatch the same emergency services that would normally respond to any given location.  The new service is available anywhere there is cell service in Franklin County, and works with all providers, but there are several drawbacks.  Texting does not provide the dispatcher with your address as readily as a phone call, so be sure to always state your location along with the nature of your emergency.  Emergency dispatchers cannot receive pictures or video via text, and texting also takes a little longer than calling so, when seconds count, you should call if you can and text if you can’t.

Franklin County’s 911 Planning Committee, which is made up of representatives from cities and townships across the county and chaired by Commissioner Marilyn Brown, has been working to make text to 911 a reality for more than a year.  Doing so has required close cooperation, not only between the jurisdictions, but also throughout the system of dispatchers, first responders, cell phone companies, and technology providers that make 911 a reality.

The new service will work throughout Franklin County with any text-enabled phone with sufficient cell signal.  To text to 911 in an emergency, simply input “911” into the “to” or “recipient” field of the texting application.  In the body of the message, include your location and the nature of your emergency.  You should receive a text response from dispatchers asking for further information or letting you know that help is on the way.  In the event that your text does not go through for some reason, you should receive a “bounce back message” letting you know that the text failed.

Text to 911 is a powerful new tool that will be a great help to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or in cases where somebody needs help but can’t easily speak.  Users should be aware that, while it’s now available in Franklin County, it is not available most places in the U.S. yet, and also that it will probably be a little slower than simply calling on the phone.  So, in an emergency, call if you can, and text if you can’t.  For more information about the new service, visit



PROSPEROUS-FUTURES-HARD-HATS-(1).jpgIn time for the year-end holiday season, the Franklin County Dog Shelter launched a new program created to get adoptable dogs out of the shelter for the holidays, and hopefully forever. Holiday Sleepover was the brain-child of Director Kaye Dickson who has been in her post since August. Interested residents could take a dog home to their family for three days over Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s.  The shelter is closed those days, so the program provides the pooches with some extra love and attention on days they wouldn’t otherwise have gotten to see many people, and the extra socialization is good for the animals’ mental health.
Participating families were asked to take pictures of the dog in their care and write up a paragraph about the experience, which then can be used to help find a permanent home for the dog.  Best of all, families all over Franklin County were able to bring the love of a new canine friend into their homes for the holidays and experience what it might be like to make a permanent puppy addition to their families with no long-term commitment.

“So many families have great memories of dogs at their holiday get-togethers,” said Dickson.  “And plenty of people are looking for some extra companionship around holidays. The Holiday Sleepover program gets the dogs out into a new setting for a few days, bringing some extra joy to the holidays for some Franklin County families, and helping out with adoption in the long run.”
And help out with adoptions it did. More than 60 dogs went home with a family for each of the holidays, and more than half of the dogs ended up finding a forever home as a result.  The program’s howling success has Director Dickson looking at how the program can be expanded to other holidays and how the shelter may partner with other shelters to get more dogs into more homes for the holidays.

happy-pitbull‚Äč“We emptied our shelter three times and had more than 250 people interested in participating,” said Dickson.
To find out more info and to sign up for the next Holiday Sleepover, email



Last week, Franklin County was recognized as one of the 2018 Healthy Business Council of  Ohio’s Healthiest Worksites at the Health Action Council’s 2018 Columbus Symposium. Franklin County’s wellness program, ThriveOn, received a gold-level award for demonstrating a commitment to employee wellness by offering a comprehensive worksite health promotion and wellness program.

This is the first year Franklin County has applied for the award, which annually recognizes Ohio employers that have made significant efforts to improve overall employee health, enhance 
I’m always glad to talk about what we do here at CSEA, because I think it’s so important.  I grew up in Hilliard, went to Arizona State University and The Ohio State University, and worked for a while for a large hospital system.  In college, I switched majors from Psychology to Sociology specifically because I wanted to work with people, which is also why I left the private sector and came to work for the county. 

The county’s ThriveOn program has increased the profile of wellness programming across Franklin County agencies, simplified the entry into wellness programs, and implemented meaningful incentives to increase participation and drive healthy behavior. This resulted in a marked increase in wellness program participation in 2017 from 15% to over 70% and significant health risk reductions in areas such as stress, blood pressure, cholesterol, and depression.

“Franklin County has the best employees around,” said County Administrator, Kenneth N. Wilson.  “And we want them to be the healthiest too.  ThriveOn helps them to be at their best
for our residents, and for themselves.”

ThriveOn offers a comprehensive wellness program to employees that focuses on supporting emotional, social, physical, and material well-being through activities like onsite cooking demonstrations, wellness challenges, telephonic and self-directed health coaching, chronic disease support programs, onsite education classes, fresh fruits and vegetable delivery service, discounted bike share programs to name a few.
Franklin County has also been recognized by Business First of Columbus for several years as a Healthiest Employer, including being ranked #2 Healthiest Employer among large employers at the 2018 Healthiest Employer of Central Ohio Awards. 
For more information about ThriveOn, visit



If you’re looking to invest or expand your business in Franklin Alex-Beres-(1).jpgCounty, the commissioners’ Economic Development and Planning Department should be one of your first calls, and the newest member of the team there is Assistant Director Alex Beres.
Economic Development and Planning (EDP) provides funding and technical assistance to support development in our community in conjunction with our other local government partners, and is also responsible for zoning, code enforcement, and land-use planning activities in unincorporated areas of the county.
Last year, the department was responsible for millions of dollars in grants and loans to local businesses and governments through its Smart Works suite of economic development tools, and processed thousands of building, planning, and zoning applications.
Alex worked for Franklin County once before and is back after a three-year stint in private industry.  He’ll also be graduating soon with a master’s degree in Government from Johns Hopkins University.

Thanks for taking the time to tell people about what you do, Alex.  First, tell me about yourself and how you came to be at EDP.

I’m from Norwalk in northern Ohio, and most of my family is still there.  When I was young, my uncle worked in economic development for the state, and learning about what he did really got me interested.  I would visit him in Columbus see the important work he was doing, and it felt like he was really helping to build the future.  After college at Ashland University, I interned with ODOT and got to learn about how infrastructure, business, and government all intersect, and about how smart planning can make all the difference.  Later, I worked as Development Director for Huron County at the height of the recession.  We had 18.3% unemployment, and were really just trying to make the best of a really tough situation.  It was very rewarding, though, to help my community to start to recover from that.  I realized from the experience that economic development was not just buildings and roads, but is ultimately about people and families.

Tell me what Economic Development is.

At its most basic, economic development work is looking for ways that the public sector can spur growth and development for better place-making, financial growth, and jobs.  There are a ton of private projects that would be good for the public, but for which the private entity needs some assistance of some kind.  We try to make that happen, but always with the public interest in mind.

Can you give me an example?

Sure.  We’re just wrapping up a project on the west side of Columbus that is a great example.  As a matter of policy, the city and county would like to see catalytic redevelopment in depressed areas like the Hilltop, and we’ve also got the Local Food Action Plan that promotes local, healthy, ethnically diverse, walkable food options for our residents, and we had a small business- a Mexican supermarket who wanted to build a new store on the west side.  The problem was that the site had a giant old storm sewer line running through it and it would be cost prohibitive for the supermarket to pay to move the line.  We were able to martial some public resources, work with the county engineer, and get the grocer some tax incentives to make it all work.  Now the county will have a new expanding small business growing in what used to be a vacant lot, and the local residents will have some new local shopping options.

You worked at the county a few years ago, left for private industry, and now you’re back.  Where have you been for the past couple years, and what brought you back to the county?

I was working for a local private engineering consultant firm doing private infrastructure financing.  I liked it, but ultimately, working in the public interest is just so much more rewarding.  I’m really proud of the work we do for the county and with our local governmental development partners.  This is an industry that can set up local municipalities to compete with each other, but in Central Ohio we mostly work together for the best interest of the community and regional economy.  It’s a level of cooperation that you don’t see most places.

What do you wish more Franklin County residents knew about county government or Economic Development?

I wish we did a better job of telling our story so that people knew what we do.  Economic Development and Planning are literally shaping the community.  We’re working on projects not just for today, but for future generations.  That has to start with smart planning—zoning and variances that set up future building, and then public/private partnerships that determine where people will live and work in the future, and it’s really important that we get it right.  I think we do it as well or better—putting together better deals for the public good—than anyone else in country.

Anything fun your coworkers don’t know about you yet?

I’m pretty much an open book.  They may not know that I was a lead guitar legend in high school, though.  My band played blues and rock and roll, and we were always getting kicked out of places for playing too loud and too long.

To learn more about Franklin County Economic Development and Planning Department, visit



Established by a group of doctors from the Columbus Medical Association in 1993, the Physicians CareConnection was created to enable healthcare professionals and volunteers to provide quality healthcare for the most vulnerable in our community. It’s a volunteer-based charity that provides patient-centered care for anyone who is “medically indigent” and cannot get the care they need through more typical channels. No other sliding fee scale specialty care clinics exist in Central Ohio, and for more than 25 years, the volunteer medical staff at Physicians CareConnection (PCC) has helped organize primary, specialty, dental, prenatal, and hospital-based services for vulnerable populations across Central Ohio. The Franklin County Board of Commissioners has partnered with PCC for more than a decade, and together last year they served thousands of patients.

“We’re fortunate to have a lot of healthcare resources in Columbus,” said PCC Executive Director, Isi Green.  “But so many in our community aren’t able to access them because of any number of individual or social barriers--resources are disconnected, capacity is limited, some aren’t able to navigate the system on their own, and of course, many simply aren’t able to afford the care they need.”
Poverty, unemployment, poor nutrition, substandard housing, limited educational opportunities, and chronic stress are all barriers to the health and wellbeing of people who are vulnerable.  Though a unique model of patient-centered care coordination, at-risk populations are offered the potential to improve their health by directly addressing their needs as they navigate the healthcare and social service systems; and encouraged to be responsible for their own health as PCC works to provide them with the resources and skills necessary to obtain appropriate services.
“Some of our patients are experiencing housing instability or facing substance abuse or other mental health challenges,” said Green.  “Many of them are also just facing more day-to-day barriers to getting the healthcare they need, like lacking transportation to get to appointments or needing translation services.  We can help with all of that.”
With partial funding from the Franklin County Commissioners, Physicians CareConnection bridges the gaps in service and ensures responsive care for those in need.  The team also conducts outreach and partners with other local public health initiatives, such as Celebrate One, which is aimed at lowering our community’s infant mortality rate.  With ongoing support from the community, Physicians CareConnection is looking forward to future decades of caring for the most vulnerable of our neighbors.
For more information, visit