MINGO JUNCTION - Village Council gave approval Tuesday for Solicitor Ernest Wilson to apply in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court for permission to transfer $363,000 from the community complex fund into the general fund.
Council was informed by the state tax department in the fall that the transfer couldn't be made. But Howard Armstrong, acting village administrator, and Wilson worked with the state auditor and state taxation departments to make the court application possible.
Money for the community complex comes from a percentage of the village's income tax. The community complex fund is only receiving about $1,750 a year under the current distribution.
Wilson said the village will have to show the splash pad project is complete and there will be no further expenses and there are no other pending projects using the community complex funds.
Councilmen Jack Brettell, Chuck Dickey, Michael Herrick and John Fabian voted to authorize Wilson to make the application. Councilman John Bracone voted against it. Councilman James Morrocco was absent from the meeting.
Bracone said he voted against it because the residents voted to spend the money on a community complex. He believes the money will be transferred into the general fund next year and will be spent anywhere. He wants the money only spent to make loan payments on the water plant bond. The village will be struggling next year to make the loan payment on the water plant.
Herrick said he wants the $363,000 put into a specific fund and council will approve any expenditures.
"I don't mind transferring the money, but I want it put somewhere and spent on an absolute necessity," he said.
Mayor Ron DiCarlo said the village administration is watching every penny spent.
"We don't want to squander (the money) on unneeded, unnecessary things," DiCarlo said.
Fabian said the village will be "stuck" if council doesn't transfer the money and an emergency arises.
Armstrong also updated council on a study of the water produced at the village's plant. He said the water plant is producing 108 million gallons of water a quarter. The village is only billing for 24 million gallons of water, leaving 84 million gallons unaccounted.
Council gave Armstrong authority to hire a company at $850 a day to check for major leaks in the distribution system. Armstrong said the work will take about three days.
Fabian asked where the village is going to get the money to fix any major leaks.
Armstrong said a study of the water billing showed 160 houses are on the books for water service but not getting a bill.
He said that may be because the houses aren't occupied. There are 104 houses getting a basic water bill but not showing any water used. He said 48 houses are using less than 1,000 gallons a month.
DiCarlo said there may have been houses in the past getting water service and not getting properly billed. He said the village, when it had money, didn't care.
"When times get tough, you start investigating," he said.
"That just amazes me," Dickey said about Armstrong's report.
Armstrong said council needs to appropriate about $45,000 to build a concrete pad and install electricity and fencing at the location where a trash compactor will be built in the south end of the village.
Council had voted to purchase the trash compactor at a cost of $63,000. The village is expected to save about $43,000 a year in fuel costs for not having to use garbage trucks on as many trips to the landfill. Armstrong said the trash compactor could pay for itself in two years and then the village will start seeing a cost reduction.
Council approved taking $60,604 out of the capital improvement fund to pay for automation equipment at the water plant. Automation work also is under way at the sewage treatment plant. Armstrong said one employee each at the water and sewer plants will be laid off as a result of the automation projects.