Indigent legal expenses outpace budget

STEUBENVILLE — The cost of helping indigent defendants get a fair day in court is higher than expected, the Jefferson County commissioners learned Thursday.

Commissioners agreed to submit $75,904 in attorney fees for indigent criminal defendants for May to the state for partial reimbursement. The attorneys represent defendants in municipal court, the three county courts, common pleas court and juvenile court.

Commissioners have been spending about $500,000 a year for the attorney fees.

The county auditor’s office reported almost every court has already spent more than 50 percent of the money allocated this year.

Commissioner Thomas Graham, who serves on the County Commissioners Association of Ohio board of directors, said the Ohio House has approved a bill which calls for nearly all the attorney fees to be paid for by the state by July 2021. He said the Ohio Senate is now considering the bill.

Commissioners were informed the design work for improvements to the Smithfield sewerage system is nearly complete.

Thomas Hartwig of Arcadis, the county’s engineering consultant, said the permit to install is ready to be submitted to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Homes in Smithfield have a septic system, with the effluent being sent by sewer lines to a lagoon treatment system. Nine pump stations will have to be upgraded.

The original estimate was $10 million for a complete new sewerage treatment system. The cost of upgrading the pump stations and lagoon treatment system was initially estimated at $4.4 million, but that figure had been lowered to $2.7 million, Hartwig said.

The county received $4.4 million in funding from federal and state agencies for the project. Michael Eroschevich, county water and sewer department director, said the county will accept the full $4.4 million, which will leave contingencies for additional work on the system in the future, including sewer lines.

The county will establish a program to regularly pump the septic tanks of solids, he said.

The pump stations also will be connected by radio signals to the county water and sewer complex building, alerting workers to problems.

Commissioners were informed the Community Development Block Grant environmental review for the replacement of the Smithfield water tank is almost complete. The county received $750,000 in CDBG funding. The project will go to bid in late June for the tank replacement.

The former tank, built in 1938, was taken out of service because of numerous leaks. The new, 200,000-gallon tank, double the size of the old one, is expected to cost around $1.5 million. The tank supplies water to about 560 customers in Smithfield, Piney Fork and Dillonvale Ridge.

Commissioners signed paperwork for the $750,000 CDBG grant for the Amsterdam sewer project. The county has received nearly 70 percent of the estimated $10 million for the project in the form of grants.

Commissioners agreed to award a contract to Colaianni Construction of Dillonvale in the amount of $1,055,000 for renovations to the county developmental disabilities agency workshop building off John Scott Highway. The estimate for the work was $1,070,000.

Mike Zinno, county developmental disabilities superintendent, said the workshop building off John Scott Highway will be renovated and the training facility on Cherry Avenue will be phased out. Additional offices will be constructed or renovated.

Zinno said the agency has been setting money aside for years because of changes in privatization services for adults. The federal government said the agency couldn’t provide case management and services to adults at the same time. He said the entire construction amount will come from the agency’s permanent improvement fund.

Commissioners also:

¯ Agreed at the request of the county engineer’s department to hire Burgess and Niple to do the design work on a bridge replacement on county Road 53 near Bergholz. The cost is $320,480.

¯ Agreed to advertise for a slip project on county Road 68. The estimate is $79,198.

¯ Agreed to advertise for paving work on county Road 78 and township roads in Cross Creek, Ross and Warren townships. The estimate is $466,457, which will be paid for by the Ohio Public Works Commission.

¯ Approved a proclamation in honor of Ronald Emerson, who has served on Yorkville council for 56 years.

¯ Approved a road use maintenance agreement with Encino Acquisition Partners for a new gas and oil well site in Ross Township using county Road 53 as a haul route. The company will make improvements to the road.

¯ Approved a road use maintenance agreement with Utica Gas Services for the construction of a connector pipe line. County Roads 54, 59 and 60 and Ross Township Road 283 will be the haul roads. The company has agreed to make improvements to the roads.