Harrison OKs fund increase

CADIZ – The Harrison County commissioners approved an increase in money allocated for court-appointed attorneys during Wednesday’s meeting.

Common Pleas Juvenile and Probate Judge Matthew Puskarich made the request.

“This is the first time in 11 years I have had to ask for an increase in appropriations,” he said. The increase in the budget is requested to cover court-appointed attorney costs in fiscal year 2013.

Puskarich said the budget for court-appointed attorneys is $8,000, “Due to the increased caseload this year, we have already blown through that,” he said.

The court showed the normal budgeted amount was spent in eight months on court-appointed attorneys with several cases yet to be billed. Puskarich said the child protective services caseload is going up, which means more people are asking to have attorneys appointed.

The judge asked for an additional $6,000 to cover the remainder of the year for court-appointed council. In addition, the court requested additional funding for transcript fees.

“These individuals also cannot afford transcript fees for appeals and we would ask that an additional $1,800 be appropriated to cover these costs,” he said.

The extended time frame and numerous court appearances in several cases also caused the usual cap for council to be waived.

In addition, the judge asked that the board allow the court to seek quotes for the purchase of eight new chairs for use in the main courtroom.

“One chair is broken, the arm keeps coming off and the remainder have wheels which do not roll and the upholstery is falling apart,” he said.

The commissioners agreed to the increase and approved the judge proceeding with quotes for the new chairs.

Scott Blackburn, director of the county Department of Job and Family Services, said his agency has purchased its annual service contract with Rural Transit to provide transportation for Medicaid clients. The contract, which will run from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2014, is for amounts not exceeding $250,000.

“This is a win-win for the county,” said commission Chair Don Bethel. “These funds which provide for Medicaid transportation also are a good funding source for Rural Transit and allow us to continue the service for our county.”

Blackburn said the state verbally confirmed the storm cleanup grant would be extended through June. Blackburn will make the official announcement as soon as written verification is received.

Resident Mike Bennett spoke regarding the condition of Tappan Hills Road, (county Road 39), stating the road is in disrepair and unsafe for travel. Commissioners assured Bennett they would convey his concerns to the county engineer’s office.

Doug Crabtree, a representative of the engineer’s office, told the board that county Road 51 had been closed due to a bridge over the railroad tracks not passing inspection. The bridge will remain closed until repairs can be made.

Delores Wiggins, president of the Ohio Valley Black Caucus, and members of the group met with the commissioners in executive session regarding an undisclosed personnel matter. No statements were given after the meeting, and no action was taken.