County considers its options on services

STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County commissioners on Thursday were provided with a recommendation about what can be done with the McCullough Children’s Home and former children services office.

Juvenile court for more than a year has been meeting to find a way to widen the scope of programs and services offered to county children who are abused, neglected or dependent.

Many of the children are placed in facilities outside the county, some of which can cost hundreds of dollars a day.

The commissioners had filed a common pleas court action to have three trusts which were established decades ago to help children who were then considered orphans. The state has since mandated counties to provide services to abuse, neglected and dependent children.

A visiting judge ordered $1,135,706 in the trusts be transferred to the county.

Juvenile Judge Joseph Corabi established a committee made up of Michael Mehalik, Tom Timmons, Jim Padden, Sam Mauck and Dan Spahn Jr. to study options about what to do with the existing children’s home and former children services offices.

Mehalik said the committee chose to demolish the existing building, with the exception of the gym and surrounding preschool classrooms; build a new children’s residential care facility; build a new group home; and renovate the gym and classrooms to include a new roof, heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, fire suppression system and new floors and windows. The estimated price tag is $4.9 million.

Mindy Nash of juvenile court said the residential center will house 16 juveniles and the group home will have 10 beds.

The residential center will provide specialized care to juveniles, while the group home will be a transitional facility for kids to get back in the community, she said.

Operational revenue for the two facilities will come from state and federal sources, said Joseph Colabella, juvenile court administrator.

The funding gap for constructing the facilities may go to the voters in the form of a levy.

Mehalik said a new building was the best alternative, saying there were too many hidden costs associated with renovations. He said there would be minimal maintenance costs on a new building in its first 10 to 15 years. He said the design of new buildings will help keep staffing levels at a minimum. He said new buildings could be designed exactly the way the court believes is best.

“New and shining is better than old and remodeled,” Mehalik said.

He added other counties might pay to house children in the facility, helping with operational costs.

Commissioner Thomas Gentile said the court could look at operational costs and include them in the design.

Commissioner David Maple said there are hidden remodeling costs with the existing buildings, which could come back to hinder the project.

Gentile said he is aware of the costs of sending juveniles out of the county for services.

Maple said he is glad to see the project at this phase. He said it will come down to the support of the community. Maple added the commissioners will do whatever it takes to get funding without having to go to the taxpayers.

Corabi said juvenile court is able to generate money for operation of the detention center by renting beds to other counties. The operational costs also could be supplemented by the existing children services levy, the judge said.

Corabi thanked the committee for its work in making a recommendation. He said the members came up with ideas the court staff didn’t think of.

Commissioner Thomas Graham was absent from the meeting, attending an emergency board of directors meeting of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.

Commissioners agreed to a contract with Gannett Fleming, with headquarters in Camp Hill, Pa., for engineering services to fix eight slips on county Road 2. County Engineer James Branagan said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide funding for the work. He said the Gannett Fleming contract will not exceed $49,663.

Branagan said slip repair design work is usually done by staff at his office, but Gannett Fleming will look at the most cost-effective repairs, which is expected to cost $1 million to $1.5 million.

Commissioners received the September report of the animal shelter. The report showed 85 dogs were brought in to the shelter, 27 dogs were carried over from August, 49 dogs were adopted, 29 dogs were reclaimed and five dogs were sent to foster care. No dogs were euthanized. There were three county humane society cases.

Commissioners approved attorney fees for indigent criminal defendants in October in the amount of $49,312. The county auditor’s office reported about $25,000 is needed to finish out the year. The county appropriated about $516,000 at the beginning of the year for the costs.


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