Jefferson County Commissioners mull funding requests, options
STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County commissioners have set the wheels in motion for some much-needed renovations at the McCullough Children’s Home.
Commissioners agreed Thursday to ask their consultant, Columbus-based Brickler & Eckler, if renovations to the children’s home would qualify for American Rescue Plan funding. If it passes the ARPA litmus test, then commissioners will have to decide how much of the $1,137,500 that’s been requested they’ll actually award them.
Jefferson County Department of Jobs and Family Services is requesting a total of $1,137,500 — $1 million for renovations, a $65,000 for an agency-wide phone system, $50,000 for body-cams for caseworkers, $15,000 for new security cameras and $7,500 for a website redesign — for upgrades for the property.
“We feel these potential upgrades will not only better serve our clients and county residents, but will provide the technological and infrastructure upgrades to last several years,” Assistant Jobs and Family Services Director Matt Kendall said.
The work coincides with efforts to gain accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Accreditation by a national accrediting agency is a requirement for designation as a qualified residential treatment Program, which commissioners say would allow McCullough to house children from outside Jefferson County when space permits.
“It’s kind of a proactive request from them to see if they can get some ARPA money to help redo (the home),” Commissioner Dave Maple said, who said they could “still get accreditation without the full million dollars, but they will still have to do some improvements to get accreditation — separate the boys and girls, make some modifications to bathrooms, do some building stuff they need.”
Commissioner Tom Graham said McCullough “needs work, a lot of work.”
“They had estimates before of up to $3 million, they’re only requesting a million and something. We want to get the accreditation, to get that we have to make some modifications … To meet all the accreditation (requirements) and everything we have to have, that’s a good request, in my opinion.”
To help DJFS obtain that accreditation, commissioners signed off on a consulting agreement with Accreditation Guru Inc., a New York corporation with a track record of helping its clients secure CARF accreditation.
“We have the funds to cover this,” DJFS officials told commissioners. “It wouldn’t cost you anything. The monthly fee they charge us would be less than the consultant we had (before).”
The firm, which, for the most part will work remotely, will be paid $3,700 a month.
Maple pointed out CARF “is the accreditation we need so we can get QRTP for the children’s home, so we can get more kids into the home.”
“If we’re going to be committing, which I am at this point, to the children’s home and the long-term growth of the children’s home, this has to happen,” he said.
Graham pointed out that if they’re successful, it would make McCullough one of four county children’s homes in the state of Ohio with QRTP status.
“I’m very much in favor of getting the children’s home up to where we need it to be,” Commissioner Tony Morelli said. “I know there’s questions, ‘Do we fix this one or do we build a new one,’ I’m not sure where I’m at on that, I don’t think I have the information I need to tell you where I’m at there. But I’m definitely for getting us approved so we can be one of the four counties in the state, No. 1 for our children to get the services, but (also) there will be a lot of opportunity for other counties to send us their children.”
QRTP would allow McCullough to provide a different level of services.
Morelli pointed out Jefferson County currently has to send children out-of-county to get many of those service.
“A lot of children and families are struggling with needs and have to go outside Jefferson County,” Maple said. “This is an opportunity to serve that need and open it up to surrounding (counties).”
Maple said it’s a “beautiful site, we need to do a better job of utilizing that property.”
“And how we maintain that property,” Commissioner Tony Morelli added.
Meanwhile, just two weeks after denying a request to put a levy on the ballot, commissioners voted to use ARPA money to help the Prevention and Recovery Board move forward with projects aimed at helping individuals struggling with addiction as well as prevention services.
Maple said when he voted against the levy, he’d made it clear he was intrigued by JCPRB Executive Director William Holt’s proposals for ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding “as an alternative to the levy.”
“I’m prepared when you guys are to honor that request,” he said.
Morelli said the funds will “help develop infrastructure” for in-patient treatment, and Maple pointed out there’s “seed money in here where they can test drive some of their programs,” like Prevention and Recovery Board’s new recovery-to-work program and prevention services targeting school-aged children with evidence-based programs aimed at helping ensure “that our next generation in Jefferson County is healthy and free of addiction.”
“Thank you for supporting this,” Morelli said. “It’s nice to know you guys are aware of the issues circulating Jefferson County. I know we talked about this before I was even a commissioner, so thank you.”
Graham said he’s grateful to have the ARPA money “to help people in these situations, to be able to help people out, use money in these ways. I’m glad we’re able to do it.”
Holt, contacted after the meeting, said he’s “very excited to move forward” with some of the projects.
“I’m hopeful that these projects will be the start of bigger things,” he said. “Unfortunately, with so many behavioral health challenges, my wish list of projects is very long so while this is a start, its really only a beginning.”
The JCPRB projects have already been deemed ARPA-eligible, so all Bricker & Eckler has to do now is “prepare the documents to support the requests.”
Commissioners also accepted a recommendation from Steubenville-based World International Testing Co. to leave the Norton Hill Tank liner in place.
At their Aug. 4 meeting, opinions were mixed on whether it would make more sense to remove and replace the liner, which could have cost as much as $350,000- to $400,000.
Arcadis Engineer Andrew Dawson told commissioners the liner is “performing excellently above water level, there’s some minor bubbling below. Both are acceptable, it doesn’t look like it’s failing in any way. We shouldn’t see any tank lifespan problems or any water quality issues.”
“What I can say for sure is if you remove the lining, you’re looking at worse reducing the life span of the tank,” Dawson said. “If you keep it, you’re not increasing the life span of the tank but you’re not reducing it.”
He said if they do nothing, the tank should have a good 25-30 year lifespan still. Removing the old liner and installing a new one would buy the county about the same time frame.
In other business, commissioners:
— Balked at allowing the Jefferson County Health Department to issue notices to Carroll County residents to connect to the new Amsterdam sewer lines, saying enforcement would be difficult.
Jefferson County typically issues a 90-day notice-to-connect, but Carroll County had planned to give customers up to a year. When they raised the issue, the Carroll County prosecutor acceded to the 90 days but also left it to Jefferson County to enforce. Commissioners have asked for a clarification of Carroll County prosecutor’s directive as they disagree.
“I don’t think we want to tell any other county what to do because we don’t want them telling us what to do,” Morelli said.
— Referred bids for the pavement marking to the county engineer for evaluation. Submitting bids were JD Striping of Ravenna, $143,757; A&A Safety of Amelia, $165,018 and Arrowmark Inc. of Smithsborough $163,609.
— Also referred bids from NLS Paving of St. Clairsville, and Shelly & Sands of Rayland, for the county Road 46 paving contract to the engineer. Shelly & Sands bid $231,363 for the project, and NLS $250,489.
— Received a petition seeking to establish a public road through the Hammondsville Cemetery and ballfield, currently owned by the Saline Township trustees, as a public road. It, too, was referred to the county engineer.
— Reported Bricker & Eckler had recommended against funding the proposed Steubenville Community Development Corp., citing a failure to describe its programming and suggesting the $3 million that was requested “is striking, and gives us immediate pause.”
“We urge extreme caution, given the size of this request for funds is by a nonprofit organization that is only 18 months old,” Bricker & Eckler’s Jeffrey Harris wrote.
— Tabled action on a request for funds for the small animal show barn addition at the Jefferson County fairgrounds until a fair board representative can meet with them.