County Money Sought to Restore Cooperative Extension Cuts

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The Athens County Commissioners were asked on Tuesday to add $44,320 to the 2014 budget of the county's Cooperative Extension office so some cut positions could be restored.

If approved, it would allow the half-time agriculture agent's position to be restored to full-time.

The position was reduced to half-time in 2012 due to budget problems, and agriculture agent Hal Kneen has been working half-time in Athens County and half-time in Meigs County.

If the additional $44,420 is provided, a half-time family consumer science position also would be added.

Cooperative Extension is a program of Ohio State University.

Kneen, who along with 4-H educator Brittany Pangburn met with the commissioners Tuesday, also informed them that he will be retiring at the end of November due to family matters.

Pangburn told the commissioners that the request for additional funding is in response to requests the office is getting for services. She said clients want a fulltime agriculture agent, and having the family consumer science position would allow the office to provide programming in areas such as nutrition and healthier lifestyles.

"We would like to get our office up to having a full gamut of programming," Kneen said.

Commissioner Chris Chmiel said that, as a farmer, he has seen the value of the agriculture agent position.

Commissioner Lenny Eliason said Ohio State University should be providing the additional funding.

He said OSU was founded as a land-grant university (meaning one of its missions was to teach agriculture).

"They have forgotten their primary purpose," Eliason said.

The Extension Office's overall budget request to the county is $137,886, with with $44,320 being added funding.