By Donna Carver
March 11, 2014
The notion of returning to a full work week at the Morrow County Courthouse sparked a debate among elected officials at their March 3 meeting.
Commissioner Dick Miller noted they have been discussing a five-day work week at the courthouse and he thought everyone had weighed in - either they are already doing five days or would be willing to.
When he asked for feedback, Auditor Mary Holtrey stated, “We are going to stay at four.” She said they have been that way for five years and everybody knows their hours. She noted the hours are printed on all of their stationary.
“With spring and summer coming up, I think we are going to stay at four.”
Treasurer Tim Garry mentioned that tax bills have already gone out and they state that his office is open four days also. “With Mary’s office being open without us or our office being open without Mary, it doesn’t work because you can do part of the transaction but you can’t finish the transaction.”
Clerk of Courts Vanessa Mills said her office is open five days a week, and her office gets a lot of overflow from the Treasurer and the Auditor, with people that are upset that they are not open.
“I had an individual come in and they showed me their tax forms and it did not say they were closed on Friday,” she said. “The traffic comes into our office at dog tag time and tax time and we have a lot of angry individuals.”
(Garry later shared a copy of the tax form which notes the treasurers office hours as 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday.)
Judge Hickson asked how many other counties in Ohio go four days instead of five? The Common Pleas Court has always been open five days a week.
Recorder Dixie Shinaberry shared that she had checked and there are only two counties in Ohio that have offices that are closed on Fridays. She noted that this was supposed to only be temporary anyway. Commissioner Miller stated that the savings to do this has not been demonstrated at all.
Garry offered clarification and correction of information regarding delinquent taxes prior to 2012. At the February elected officials meeting, the total figure given of outstanding back taxes prior to 2012 was 4.2 million dollars. Garry previously reported that this figure did not include taxes owed by HPM. He corrected that statement and the figure does, in fact, include HPM back taxes in the amount of $169,000.
Commissioner Dick Miller noted that in quoting the 4.2 million dollar figure it appeared to imply that the total amount was owed by Candlewood Lake. Garry clarified that the 4.2 million dollar figure is for the entire county and includes all back taxes owed prior to 2012. “The figure dates back in some cases up to 20 years,” said Miller. Garry corrected that Candlewood Lake’s portion is 515 parcels owing $401,154.32.
Engineer Randy Bush reported that the cold weather has created potholes. He reported that they are out patching as best they can weather permitting.
Bush discussed the road salt situation. He shared that every year he estimates how much salt is needed for the winter. This year he estimated what the county uses during a normal winter and this winter “was not a normal winter.” He has to order between 80 to 120 percent of his estimate.
“Right now we have received the 120 percent and there is enough left for two, possibly three more snow storms,” Bush explained. After that he will be unable to get the contracted price for salt which is more expensive. Instead of a little over 40 dollars a ton it would cost $78 a ton. He said hopefully there will not be a need to purchase the more expensive salt. He did note that this has been an issue for every county, as this winter was not expected to be as bad as it has been. Bush said the more he has to spend in salt and snow removal, the less money he has available for road repair and capital improvements in the Spring.
Judge Hickson reported the two major trials that had been confronting the court have resolved. One case was in Judge Hall’s court and the other in Judge Hickson’s. He shared that in Judge Hall’s case, a private defense team was used but in his case it was court-appointed council He estimated the costs to be $40,000 to $45,000 for the county at this juncture. He noted that it would have cost approximately double that amount if the case had proceeded.
Vanessa Mills reported that they be “going live” with their collections through the Ohio Attorney General’s office. She noted that the AG has the ability to collect money in ways that a collection agency can not, such as through state income taxes.
Auditor Mary Holtrey explained that the pictometry has slowed down a little bit. She shared that last November they did two flights and were getting ready to do the third when the snow came “and there has been snow on the ground ever since.” Holtrey noted that the district manager will be showing the pictures at the Chamber noon luncheon on March 18. At the luncheon he will explain what this service can do for the county.
Holtrey also said they have advertised for bids for GIS, Geographic Information System and she heard from two companies so far.
“We are going to have GIS,” said Holtrey. “We are one of the only counties that does not have GIS.” She explained that the cost will be shared between her office, the engineer’s office, and the Ohio Dept. of Graphic Information may pay for part of it.
Commissioner Dick Miller updated everyone on the list of commissioner’s projects. He noted that the contractors have met for the lighting for the outside of the jail. The jail control panel is being put in. They have ordered a third cruiser and have obtained a grant for half of the cost.
The re-commissioning of the Community services building was brought up. The building has issues with its heating system and Miller explained that it will be an expensive process to take care of.
Commissioner Whiston shared an update on the dog pound. He said that he hoped the issue will be resolved this year.
An EMS proposal for county wide emergency services is been put out early and widespread so that a lot of people will know the commossioners are bidding for emergency services in Morrow County. Bids are due in April 9.
Commissioner Whiston shared that they have met with State Rep. Jeff McClain and State Sen. Dave Burke and addressed the public defenders costs and the stress it imparts in the county.
“Currently the county is receiving about 35 cents on the dollar,” Whiston said. “That is an area of concern. There is also a significant cost for child placement services. There are a few things the state mandates that the commissioners feel the state should help with the funding on. We will continue to work with them and see what we can get as far as cooperation on that so we can use our funds for other needs.”
The budget hearing is scheduled fro March 17 th. Whiston shared that they have cut approximately two million dollars off of the requested funds.
Miller reported that the railroad crossing issue on County Road 8 is at the point they are waiting to see if PUCO filed for closure. They have not heard yet.
Whiston shared that the IRS, on behalf of the Dept. of Justice, is working on the HPM issue and are working with the county on how best to handle the sale and to redevelop it.