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Jefferson County commissioners discuss possible care facility

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County taxpayers could be asked to fund the construction of a children’s residential care facility and group home.

The county commissioners on Thursday held a workshop session with juvenile court staff and a representative of McKinley & Associates of Wheeling, the architect for the project.

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

Juvenile Judge Joseph Corabi appointed a committee to study the existing children’s home and the vacant children services building.

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

A visiting judge ordered $1,135,706 in the trusts be transferred to the county. The amount has grown to about $1.3 million.

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.

Court officials and the commissioners discussed funding options for construction. Nash said she received an e-mail from state Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, about getting funding for the project through the state’s capital improvement budget. Corabi said a meeting will be held with Hoagland about the project.

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

The commissioners could ask residents for a construction levy, which would last for a couple of years.

Commissioner Thomas Graham said he wants to be able to provide the best services to the children of the county and what is best for the taxpayers.

The county has a children services levy, with part of the proceeds being used to operate the children’s home. The legality of using part of the levy money for the proposed facility has yet to be determined.

Commissioner Tom Gentile said he wants most of the existing trust money used, but Corabi wants to hold back some of it.

Commissioner David Maple said the court has spent more than a year creating a vision for the residential care facility and group home.

McKinley & Associates was asked to do a rendering of the proposed project which could be used to sell the levy if it is placed on the ballot.

Maple wants a levy committee to be formed and tasked with getting the levy approved.

During the regular meeting, commissioners gave authorization to proceed on the construction of the new Smithfield water tank.

The estimate for the work was $1,694,000. Three bids were received. Maguire Iron Inc. of Sioux Falls, S.D., submitted the apparent low bid of $1,608,000.

The county received $750,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding and $150,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the Smithfield water tank replacement.

The former tank, built in 1938, was taken out of service because of numerous leaks.

The new, 200,000-gallon tank will be double the size of the old one. The tank supplies water to about 560 customers in Smithfield, Piney Fork and Dillonvale Ridge.

Work is expected to take a year.

Michael Eroshevich, county water and sewer department director, said demolition of the old tank is expected to start next week and is expected to take one day.

Work also will begin on the foundation for the new tank, he said.

Commissioners were informed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is allowing the county to draw down on a $1.7 million grant for the Amsterdam sewer project. Eroshevich said $732,257 will be requested to cover engineering and legal fees associated with the project.

The $9 million sewer project had to be rebid because bids came in above the engineer’s estimate. Bids are set to be opened at next week’s meeting.

Commissioners gave approval to county Engineer James Branagan for a change order on the county Road 7B sidewalk, drainage and pavement project. Branagan said Cast & Baker Corp. of Canonsburg, Pa., the contractor for the project, will pave an additional 1,000 feet of the road for $24,400. The cost of the project increased to $599,868, he said.

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