Jefferson budget stands at $14.3M

STEUBENVILLE – The Jefferson County commissioners on Thursday approved the 2014 budget, which is $45,000 less than last year.

The general fund budget totals $14,341,851.

County Commissioner David Maple said this year’s budget process was the longest and most difficult since he came into office.

“There were some last-minute curve balls that caused a delay,” he said.

Commissioners took $50,000 from the capital felony line item and spread it among to departments to finish the process.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said the budget includes $150,000 for the county port authority to increase economic development.

Graham said county department heads cooperated by scaling back budgets.

“It is a good working effort,” he said.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile said everyone expected the oil and gas industry to bring an influx of revenue for the county but that has yet to happen. He said the county still is experiencing a loss in local government funds from the state.

“Most of the department heads have been extremely frugal and turned money back in (at the end of the year),” he said.

He said one of the biggest challenges was the increase in funding requested by the veterans services commission. The veterans services commission will be getting $537,000 this year, but Gentile said the salaries at the agency increased 80 percent in the past couple years, versus only a 20 percent increase in money going to services for veterans.

Maple said the county departments still have to be conservative in spending throughout the year.

Department budgets for the year include: Commissioners, $286,000; prosecutor, $912,000; board of elections, $660,000; three county courts, $665,000; juvenile court, $525,000; common pleas court, $567,287; sheriff, $700,000; and jail, $1.3 million.

Also, Clifford Meyer, JB Green Team executive director, told the commissioners about funding problems due to a decrease in garbage arriving at the Apex Landfill. He said the solid waste district in Jefferson and Belmont counties has lost $1.3 million in funding as a result of the decreased operations at Apex.

He explained a proposed designation fee, which could bring in $263,000. Governments collecting garbage in the district would be charged for garbage generated, which would amount to about $2 per household a year. Meyer said the designation fee would have to be written into the solid waste plan, currently in progress.

Steubenville and Martins Ferry, the largest cities in each county, have a veto vote for the designation fee and leaders in both communities are opposed to the designation fee.

In other matters, Graham said Steubenville has decreased its proposed water rate increase for bulk water purchased by the county. Steubenville initially said the rate would be increased to $3.08 per 1,000 gallons of water. The county buys about 2.5 million gallons of water a month from the city.

Graham said the increase amounts to a 72 percent increase.

The city said it would lower the increase to $2.46 per 1,000 gallons of water, a 38 percent increase.

Graham said he asked the city to lower the amount even further.

He said the county could tie into the Mingo Junction system and buy additional water from Toronto to circumvent buying water from Steubenville.

Gentile asked the water and sewer department to study both proposals.

Maple noted it is a good business decision to study other cost options for water.

Commissioners also had a lengthy discussion about a request from Precision Pipeline of Lancaster for additional money for the Brilliant boost station pipeline project.

The county’s engineering consultant, Malcolm Perine of Sewickley, Pa., did 14 soil borings along the 5-mile section of pipeline and only one boring showed rock.

Precision Pipeline hit a large amount of rock installing the water line and is asking for $16,000 for the additional cost. Casey Hazen of Precision Pipeline said the labor alone cost the company more than $100,000.

Thomas Hartwig of Malcolm Perine said Precision Pipeline never discussed the extra costs during construction meetings during the project. It was at the end of the job that the company asked for more money.

Precision Pipeline also is seeking additional money because the county couldn’t exactly locate the old concrete pipeline in place, which required extra excavation.

The commissioners said they should have been notified of the problems with the contractor with the rock and extra excavation.

There is still about $60,000 in unspent money for the project. Commissioners will continue negotiating on the issue with the contractor.

Hartwig also asked the commissioners to split the difference in the installation of a grinder pump at a home in Pottery Addition during a sewer construction project in the community. Hartwig said the engineers were denied access to a home, which had a very deep basement and couldn’t be connected to the gravity sewer system because of its elevation.

The cost of the grinder pump and installation was $8,832. Commissioners agreed to pay for 50 percent of the cost, with Malcolm-Perine paying the rest.

Commissioners were informed by Mike Eroshevich, county water and sewer department interim director, that 120 homes in the Crestview-Belvedere sewer project haven’t connected to the system. About 50 of the homeowners haven’t hired a contractor for the tap-ins. The homeowners have until April 15, the deadline for the third extension to get tap ins.

Commissioners also:

– Agreed to hire Timothy S. Miller of Toronto as the operations manager at the county water and sewer department, replacing Eroshevich when he was named assistant director. Miller is currently a Toronto water plant operator.

– Agreed to allow county Engineer James Branagan to participate in two state salt cooperative purchasing programs for next winter. Branagan said salt will be replenished during the summer and a second purchasing for salt for the winter months.

– Agreed to designate a route through the county for the U.S. Bicycle Route 50 running from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. The route will run through Steubenville and cross the river on the Market Street Bridge.

– Approved attorney fees for indigent clients in criminal cases in the amount of $44,316 for March.

– Received the annual report for the Jefferson County Soil and Water District storm water consortium group in the county. Storm water management plans are mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Communities in the county contribute funding for a countywide plan.