JB Green Team discusses revenue options

BELLAIRE – The JB Green Team board of trustees debated several revenue options and reviewed a proposed two-phase plan for cost reductions.

The solid waste authority for Jefferson and Belmont counties approved adding a designation fee to the new 15-year operating plan but delayed implementing the fee in February after board member and Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci argued against the fee.

The debate over the fate of the enforcement program and implementation of designation fees continued Monday at the Bellaire Library taking up most of the two-and-one-half hour meeting.

The proposal to eliminate the newly implemented $60,000 budget line item for enforcement had been tabled at the last meeting and board Chairman Belmont County Commissioner Matt Coffland proposed an alternative to ending the program.

Coffland defended the success of the program in Belmont County, emphasizing the positive feedback from township trustees. He proposed a compromise in which JB Green Team would continue funding enforcement through the end of March, allowing Belmont and Jefferson counties to legislate a takeover of funding the initiative paying the officers and budgeting for the $30,000 yearly cost.

As part of his proposal, Coffland asked that the board approve changing the contract to allow each county to keep its truck, cameras and equipment supplied by the board if they will maintain the litter control program. It was added that a memorandum of understanding be attached specifying the equipment and vehicle be used solely for litter enforcement.

There was some opposition as Powhatan Point Mayor Mark McVey protested the move, stating that it would not be fair to current JB Green Team employees who are facing possible layoffs if further cuts have to be made to the budget.

Executive Director Cliff Meyer stated that although there were out-of-committee discussions of personnel cuts in Phase II that no official proposals have been made to eliminate any of the employees.

The proposed cuts in Phase II would combine the two county programs into one shared cooperative that would eliminate an undisclosed number of positions.

Coffland affirmed his commitment to retain each employee and prevent any pay cuts, and offered a second compromise that the board agreed to allow him one week to seek approval from Jefferson and Belmont counties for the proposed take over of funding the enforcement program.

Meyer reminded the board that without the ability to find a source of funding to replace the lost revenue from Apex landfill, there was the possibility that even Phase II cuts would not allow the JB Green Team to meet its budget.

Solicitor John Mascio Jr. updated the status of a lawsuit filed last year against the Apex landfill for late tipping fees. He stated the judge ruled in favor of the board and had been presented with the figures from the fiscal officer, and Mascio is was waiting on a decision.

The debate moved onto the designation fees that had caused some confusion at the last meeting. Mascio clarified that any proposal to implement designation fees first would have to be approved by both boards of county commissioners and then be approved by Martins Ferry and Steubenville, as the most populous municipalities.

Mucci stated that unless he could show a value to residents, he would oppose a designation fee. Mascio told the board that if either Steubenville or Martins Ferry exercised their veto on the proposal, it was “dead.” Meyer explained it could cost upwards of $13,000 to prepare the paperwork for the designation fees, which McVey pointed out would be a wasted expenditure, citing Martins Ferry Mayor Paul Riethmiller had rejected the proposal at the last meeting and Steubenville was opposed.

Tim Boland, Steubenville city manager, confirmed that at this point Steubenville would vote no on the designation fees.

Mucci said he might be able to convince the citizens and city council that the designation fee was cost effective if some value, such as a transfer station in Steubenville, could be made part of the plan.

Dave Hays, fiscal officer, said any proposal would have to be submitted in detail to the Ohio EPA and would be difficult to prepare. The board voted to allow Meyer to enter into discussions for either purchasing and resuming control of the Belmont County transfer station and establishing a new facility in Jefferson County.

Coffland argued that some major decisions still had to be made. “We have to come up with some revenue.”

The designation fee would provide $236,000 to help cover the budget shortfall of $650,000. A proposed tax assessment would provide only $129,000 and even with both sources in Phase I the deficit still would be $284,000.

With the decision to cut funding for the Litter Enforcement line item that would add $105,000 to the operating fund, a final decision on the health department support line item was postponed due to the current EPA mandated monitoring of the Apex landfill.

Board member and Jefferson County Health Department Administrator Bruce Misselwitz reported the OEPA has loaned the health department a special meter to monitor the Apex landfill for hydrogen sulfide levels and that program has been extended into April. The perimeter scan is required twice each week, and once every other week the department has to do a complete surface scan that takes six hours.

Misselwitz reported the EPA could require two employees dedicated to landfill, which is up from the current 1.5.

“We only have two options at this time. We cannot assess generation fees or the waste is going across the river,” Meyer explained. “If designation fees are off the table, I need more ides from the board to find revenue.”

“I am not advocating anything, just presenting options,” Meyer said. “You have to tell me what to put in the plan.”

The executive director warned that with the exception of two employees, JB Green Team could cease to exist if it becomes a necessity to implement Phase III. “We will continue to take a hard look at our revenue and hope for some positive changes in revenue. We are ultimately still facing a huge unknown,” Meyer said.

Coffland said some hard decisions would be made at the April meeting and assured the board he still is exploring options for funding and remains positive that a solution can be found.

“We have all been through tough times before, so this is nothing new,” he said.