Commissioners back 2-1-1 info line for county

The Washington County commissioners on Thursday threw their support toward the creation of a county 2-1-1 system.

The system allows callers to get information about services available across the county with whatever needs they have, including assistance with housing and utilities, food or health/mental health. The information available also includes where to get food, shelter or medical care during a disaster or information on health concerns, such as SARS, West Nile or influenza. Callers also can find out where they can put their skills to work as volunteers.

The system operates in 60 of Ohio’s 88 counties. As of July 11, Washington and six other counties were in discussion to launch the system. The systems are spearheaded by the Ohio United Way and the United Way of each county. Athens and Morgan counties already have their systems in place.

Jeff Welch, senior vice president at Settlers Bank and past president of the local United Way board, said he is part of the 15-member implementation committee working on the 2-1-1 system. They hope to have it launched during the spring.

Welch said the group has to secure a call center to handle the calls, apply to be certified as a 2-1-1 center and build the database of all the services available within the county and statewide, including contact information, locations and hours or operations.

“All of the contact information is multiple places,” Welch said. “We want to make sure it’s up to date.”

Marietta College first lady Diane Bruno said it’s important to the implementation committee that services are available throughout the county and residents throughout the county who can benefit.

“On many levels, it is going to be beneficial to our county,” Bruno said.

Bruno said one important feature of 2-1-1 is people who live in other parts of the country can call and input a zip code to get services for someone they know in another area, such as Washington County. The operator will ask questions and take time to find out the need and match the recipient with the appropriate service.

In other business:

One bid, from Larry Lang Excavating, was submitted and approved to repair two road slips on Caywood Road, at a cost of $53,175.90. Washington County Engineer Roger Wright estimated the cost of the project would be $60,352.34.

The Washington County Building Department submitted a request to move into the space recently vacated by the Washington County Board of Elections office, which moved to Davis Avenue in August.

The building department’s request is the third the commissioners have received, after WASCO’s cafe and the county’s Information Technology office.

The space would offer “much greater accessibility and visibility to better serve our customers,” department official David A. Sweigard wrote in the request. “Our filing cabinets and drafting tables can be used more effectively when consideration is given to the volume of business that we do annually.”

Cunningham and the commissioners said they think they might have a decision in time for the Sept. 12 meeting.