Carroll County 4-H backers trying to find some way to keep program going

CARROLLTON, Ohio — A levy to fund the Carroll County Ohio State University Extension office may have gone down to defeat, but not the hopes of many involved with the county’s youth.

Holding pattern

John Gardener, the levy committee chairman, said the community is in a holding pattern for now and no one knows what the future holds.

He said there is no May primary planned for the county, which means the levy can’t go on the ballot until the general election in November.

The extension office closed in August after this year’s county fair.

Gardener said everyone is waiting to hear from the state Extension office on where they can go from here.

The options to fund the extension office, and the 4-H youth program, include obtaining funding from county commissioners, property tax levies or funding from private individuals or businesses to fund the program.

In Carroll County, the commissioners pulled Extension funding because of a county budget shortfall. Now, two levies have failed on the ballot, leaving one more option: trying to obtain funding from another source such as a business or individuals. If no other funding can be found, the county will have no 4-H or other Extension programming.

A county extension office must have local funds to receive state and federal matching funds.

“This was a very worthwhile program. It teaches youth to be responsible for themselves and their community. It’s going to be sad because no one is going to notice its gone until it affects them,” Gardener added.

Donations needed

He said the group did receive donations from individuals, but only enough to fund the levy campaign and not enough to fund the office.

The group is looking for donations to help fund a 4-H program for this year.

“We definitely won’t turn them down,” Gardener said.

However, he estimates between $10,000 and $20,000 is needed to get the program running again and not a lot of businesses or individuals can afford or are willing to get involved at that level.

Without the 4-H program running in Carroll County, youth who usually show their animals in the 4-H competitions at the county fair will have to find other ways to show through the FFA program, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts or other youth programming through the junior fair.

Ray Rummell, a Carroll County senior fair board member, is working as a liaison between it and the junior fair board.

“We will have a junior fair in 2011 even though there is no Extension service or 4-H,” Rummell said.

Rummell said he hopes to have a definite plan in place by the beginning of 2011. A meeting is planned for 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Carrollton High School with former 4-H advisers from around Carroll County to gather input and how to proceed in order to find a way for children to show at the county fair and not be involved in either 4-H or FFA.

In the meantime, the fair board is tagging steers Nov. 20 because it is one detail that needs to be done before the new year begins.

Rummell reiterated that the junior fair program can’t be called or considered 4-H because of legal reasons.

However, youth who participate in the fair and are not involved in 4-H or FFA will not be allowed to show at the state fair.

Another option

Many in Carroll County have heard rumblings of a possible collaboration between the Carroll Soil and Water Conservation District and the OSU Extension office.

Jack Kerrigan, OSU Extension regional director for northeast Ohio, said he has heard of the possibility and is waiting for a proposal to come forth.

Kerrigan added the collaboration would have to be the entire extension program and not just 4-H.

“Until we see something, we just don’t have any idea of what it could include,” Kerrigan said.

Not alone

Carroll County is not alone. A levy in Jackson County also failed at the polls.

Gardener added he hopes Carroll County can keep an interest in the 4-H program until the levy is able to be put back on the ballot in November 2011 or other funding can be found.

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

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