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Agencies report improved relations

STEUBENVILLE — Court Administrator Joseph Colabella Thursday told the Jefferson County commissioners that communications between the juvenile court and the Department of Job and Family Services have improved under new DJFS Director Michelle Santin.

The topic was part of a discussion of a contract between the DJFS and the court for duties on behalf of the Child Support Enforcement Agency.

“The dialogue has been fantastic,” he said. “Things are moving in the right direction. The open communication has been great between her, Judge Joe Corabi, our magistrate, our chief probation officer and (Sheriff) Fred Abdalla.”

Colabella cited having known Santin prior to her hiring as a factor in the transition being smooth.

The topic was raised by Commissioner Tom Gentile, who noted that communications between the departments in past years have been “a bumpy road.”

“(Communication) has to happen any time children are involved,” Gentile said. “I appreciate you all being together and communicating. The result is better care and service and less bumps in the road.”

“I’m glad to hear things are working well between the two agencies,” Commissioner Thomas Graham said. “Bringing Michelle on and (Human Resources Administrator) Matt (Kendall) on has been great for Jefferson County. I’m glad everyone is working in cooperation with one another. That’s great news.”

Commissioners also approved contracts between the department and Young Star Academy for placement and related services for children in custody of the department, and the county Community Action Council. A request to purchase a new truck for the department was tabled with officials advised to find a better price.

Also approved was a child welfare training grant for the juvenile court.

Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding involving the county Water and Sewer Department, the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association and Ohio University (Voinovich School) about the Appalachian Drinking Water initiative. That program will allow departments to share their GIS maps to find areas in need of public water and to explore options to fund projects to get water to those areas.

“This sounds like a great program,” Gentile said.

Three items concerning the Reeds Mill pump project were approved, and the commissioners accepted the annual report for 2019 from director Michael Eroshevich on the year 2019.

The commissioners also heard from and county Auditor E.J, Conn and approved more CARES Act funding for various county entities.

A small business owner interesting in leasing a portion of Friendship Park to discuss a proposed lease agreement with the park board. John Anderson of Smithfield, owner of Billy Big Rig CDL Institute, is interested in using a portion of the park that had previously been leased to a gas and oil company for his classes on a six-month term.

Graham raised concerns about the trucks coming in an out of the park.

“This is not something I’m going to support,” he said. “The park is for recreation, I’d hate to see CDL trucks pulling in there off the main drag going into Friendship Park. That bothers me.

“The question that is wrapping around in my mind is should this park be utilized for CDL training, when it’s a recreation park for citizens of Jefferson County. That’s what I’m wrestling with.”

Gentile did not agree with the financial terms in the proposed lease, and raised concerns about the cost of the damage the trucks could cause relative to the amount the lease was for.

“That’s $50 an acre to rent for a month and that’s really, really, really soft,” he said. “My biggest concern is any hiccup during the winter months and that (revenue) goes away pretty quick.”

Maple shared the concern.

“That property is the taxpayers property, and we couldn’t let it go and lease it for less than a fair value for that,” he said. “On behalf of the citizens, if we’re going to do it, we have to find the fair market value for it.”

Anderson noted the need for drivers and that finding suitable locations for training drivers in the county is difficult.

After discussion, no vote was taken on the lease. Maple advised Anderson, who said he was in discussions for one other location, to consult the Jefferson County Port Authority.

“I’m a small business fan,” Maple said. “I’d like to table this for now and work with you and the Jefferson County Port Authority to help cover that base and be of assistance that way. Maybe we can find you a place that might be better suited for this.”

The commissioners approved a petition for part of township Road 1046 in Island Creek Township to be vacated.

(Grimm can be reached at agrimm@heraldstaronline.com)

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