Jefferson County can share coronavirus funds

RED RIBBON WEEK — Laura Trifonoff, left, Jefferson County adult drug court coordinator, and Ashley Wilson, a registered nurse with the Family Recovery Center, discussed Red Ribbon Week during Thursday’s meeting of the Jefferson County commissioners. (Contributed photo)

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County commissioners got the go-ahead Thursday to share federal CARES Act funding with for-profit and nonprofit entities, provided they meet the requirements.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Shawn Blake told commissioners the rules are relatively straightforward, although he advises caution in funding nonprofits.

“Commissioners have the discretion to define the types of nonprofits that are eligible and to ask for sufficient documentation during the application process and after a grant is awarded,” Blake wrote in his five-page opinion. “When a county subgrants funds, the county is ultimately responsible in an audit for how the funds are spent, and grant agreements should be drafted accordingly.”

With that opinion in hand, commissioners said the auditor’s office will now determine who meets the criteria. Those who do will have to specify which expenses are being covered and verify they are not receiving other sources of federal support for the same expenses.

Now that they know it’s doable, Commissioner Dave Maple said they’ll be prepared to consider grants for nonprofits and for-profits, “next week if the auditor’s ready.”

“I’m not sure of the total remaining (in the county’s CARES Act allotment),” Commissioner Tom Graham said, “but hundreds of thousands more than likely, and more money is expected. We should do whatever we can legally do to help these private entities that have been hurt by this virus.”

Also Thursday, commissioners signed off on Auditor E.J. Conn’s request to approve monthly sanitization services for the courthouse, Jobs and Family Services and the Tower’s building through the end of the year at a cost of slightly more than $12,500 a month. That approval will allow the auditor’s office to issue purchase orders, setting aside CARES Act funds for the project.

Commissioners set aside another $5,000 in CARES Act funding to cover overtime costs Conn’s office incurred in administering the funds, and agreed to consider the sheriff’s request to consider using CARES funds to cover eligible costs associated with employees whose jobs are “substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding” to the health emergency.

Blake also signed off on a proposal to transfer Jefferson County’s portion of the city of Steubenville’s magistrate’s salary to its new mental health court, which will be administered by Steubenville Municipal Court. The current magistrate is retiring.

Blake pointed out that Jefferson County’s commitment to fund part of the magistrate’s salary expires at the end of the year, so they could put a new funding agreement in place. Both the commissioners and Steubenville City Council would have to sign off on it.

TranSmartUSA told commissioners they’d like to participate in the Jobs and Family Services transportation for non-emergency transportation services. Currently, Checker Cab Company provides those services but the contract expires at the end of the year.

Jobs and Family Services Director Michelle Santin recommended commissioners issue a request for proposals. Santin said she’s satisfied with the provider, but wants to be sure they provide the highest level of service possible and perhaps even save taxpayer money.

She told Commissioner Tom Gentile the department is currently paying Checker Cab about $1.8 million for its services.

“I have no problem letting them (make their case),” Maple said, reminding representatives of both companies that they can sign up to speak during the public participation period at next week’s meeting. “Ultimately, in my mind, it should be a recommendation by you all. For me, personally, it’s going to be about how we better serve our community.”

Graham said he’d like to see the language of the bid criteria so that when the bids are submitted, they’ll be able to compare the two.

“We’ll wait for information from the two of you, then, and see if the companies are going to get on the public participation (list),” Graham said.

Commissioners also signed off on the asset transfer agreement with the Village of Richmond Public Water System.

“I spoke to the mayor the other other day, we’re going to get together and coordinate the transition, “Jefferson County Water and Sewer District Director Mike Erosohevich said. “We’ll start getting things in line for the transition.”


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