County OKs more justice center repairs

STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County commissioners on Wednesday approved more air conditioning and heating repairs for the Justice Center and opened one bid to replace the electronic control boards which remotely unlock doors throughout the building.

The control boards open about 120 secured doors in the adult jail and juvenile detention sections of the Justice Center. The existing boards are originals in the 20-year-old building and are failing.

DS Architecture, the county’s engineering consultant, reported the estimate for the project is $570,186. United Construction Co. of Parkersburg submitted the sole bid of $553,167. Work on the project is expected to take 90 days. Video surveillance cameras at the building also will be upgraded.

Commissioners by a vote of 2-1 approved the final upgrades to air handlers at the Justice Center. H.E. Neumann Co. of Wheeling will do the work for $37,408. The commissioners have already paid the company more than $100,000 for work on the air handlers.

Joseph Colabella, juvenile court administrator, said the air handlers have been neglected for years, making it difficult to control the temperature in the building. He said the air handlers are now connected to a computer to control the temperatures.

Commissioner David Maple again voted against the work, stating only one quote had been received.

Commissioners received a check in the amount of $280,957 from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation as an 85 percent refund for premiums paid for 2016. Maple said an argument can be made the premium was too high. He said the workers’ compensation bureau has wisely invested its money, resulting in a surplus of funds.

The county also was informed about grants from workers’ compensation designed to help prevent injuries to workers.

Commissioners received a letter from the Ohio Development Services Agency stating a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant was being pulled for the work on Brilliant’s new water treatment plant.

According to the letter, an environmental review of the project had not been completed by Martin Sohovich, the former director of the county regional planning commission, prior to work beginning on the plant.

Federal law requires the environmental review must be completed before work can begin.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the CDBG program, doesn’t have the authority to waive the federal law, the letter stated.

Commissioners had appealed an original decision.

Commissioner Thomas Graham said it is unfortunate news for the residents of Brilliant. Maple added that the engineering firm doing the work for Brilliant also could be liable for the grant being lost because it allowed work to begin based on a verbal response from Sohovich.

Commissioner Tom Gentile said the paperwork and files at the regional planning commission are in disarray.

Betty Lou Tarr has been named as the new regional planning commission director.

Commissioners agreed to allow Toronto county court Judge Lisa Ferguson to hire a director for community service workers. The director will work up to 50 hours a month overseeing criminal defendants who have been ordered to perform community service in lieu of paying court fines.

Ferguson said the community service work holds the defendants accountable for their actions.

Gentile said he wants to have a discussion with the three county court judges about consolidating the courts into one central location. He said it would save the county money by not having to rent three separate court offices.

Before that could happen, a state law, which dictates the need for the three separate county courts, would have to be changed.

Ferguson said most counties in Ohio have a centralized county court system. She said the money saved on rent payments could be used for other court programs.

Graham said the commissioners have wanted to centralize the county court system for years.

Graham said he wants the commissioners in the future to receive resumes from persons who want to serve on county boards. He said the resumes will give the commissioners more insight into those who are seeking to serve on the boards prior to an appointment being made.

Commissioners received the June report of the animal shelter, showing 65 dogs were brought to the shelter in June, with 35 dogs carried over from May. The report showed 46 dogs were adopted, 22 were reclaimed and seven dogs were sent to foster homes or shelters. No dogs were euthanized in June.