County OKs $14M budget

STEUBENVILLE – Thirteen isn’t an unlucky number for the Jefferson County budget.

The Jefferson County commissioners Thursday approved the county’s annual budget. The budget for years was stuck around the $13 million figure but increased to $14 million for 2013.

The county lost $900,000 in state local government funding, but will receive $700,000 in casino tax revenue. Revenue from the county’s sales and use tax increased in 2012, and conveyance fees from the gas and oil leases also increased.

Commissioner Thomas Graham said the county is unique to a lot of other governments in that the county is not experiencing financial problems. He said the county ended 2012 with a surplus and another is projected at the end of 2013.

Graham said most departments will operate on the same figures as last year, with the exception of a couple departments, which will increase this year. He said the commissioners have been going over the budget line by line since November.

Commissioner David Maple said this year’s budget process was “smooth.”

“We knew by year’s end what we would be working with (for this year). We have so many folks in the the general fund that know fiscal responsibility,” he said.

But Maple said the county has to be fiscally conservative for the next several years.

“We know there will be growth but we don’t know how much or when,” he said.

Commissioner Tom Gentile was absent from the meeting.

Commissioners also received a letter from the prosecutor’s office stating the county is allowed to purchase the Towers building at 500 Market St. Commissioners approved a motion Thursday to enter into a purchase agreement with Tower Realty to purchase the building for $750,000, plus $100,000 for four adjacent parking lots. Graham said there is nothing binding at this point for the county to proceed with the purchase. He said the purchase agreement is the first step of the process.

The commissioners expressed an interest in purchasing the building to save money on rent at the Towers and at other buildings. Commissioners said they want to move the board of elections out of the Courthouse Annex and demolish the building to make way for public parking for person’s visiting the courthouse on business. The commissioners also want to move the veterans services commission out of its older building on North Street.

Commissioners also:

Opened three proposals from engineering firms for design work on the rehabilitation of county water tanks in Bergholz and East Springfield.

Agreed to install a pump to increase water pressure for 12 houses on Starr Hill outside Bergholz. The residents installed a 2-inch line on their own and the county took over the line more than a decade ago. The cost will be about $21,000, compared to $105,000 for installing a new 4-inch water line.

Shannan Gosbin, county water and sewer department director, said the pump is a short-term fix, and the department will study replacing the water line in the future.

Were informed the county’s drug task force received a $12,835 grant from the Ohio Drug Law Enforcement Grant to purchase high-tech equipment to be used in drug investigations.

Announced letters will be sent out to cities, villages and townships about recreation grant applications through the county’s sales and use tax.

Approved attorney fees for indigent criminal defendants in the amount of $57,229 for February.

Approved funding in the amount of $37,500 for the county’s port authority for the first two quarters of the year. Commissioners have committed $100,000 in the 2013 budget for the year for economic development.

Proclaimed March as Developmental Disability Awareness Month on behalf of the county’s Developmental Disabilities Board.