Questions arise about levy funding

STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County commissioners on Thursday said they will seek a legal opinion about whether revenue from the children services levy can be used for operations at a proposed children’s residential care facility and group home.

The children services levy generates about $900,000 a year, with the money going to the Job and Family Services Department.

Juvenile court for more than a year has been meeting to find a way to widen the scope of programs and services offered to county children.

A committee appointed by Juvenile Judge Joseph Corabi decided it was best to build a new children’s residential care facility on the county’s site off John Scott Highway, build a new group home and renovate the gym and classrooms to include a new roof, heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, a fire suppression system and new floors and windows. The estimated price tag is $4.9 million.

The county received $1,135,706 from three trusts established for orphanage care after an action was filed in common pleas court.

Commissioners and juvenile court are considering asking for a construction levy, which would be collected for several years. The court, however, is concerned about ongoing operational funding.

Reno Tarquinio, job and family services fiscal supervisor, said a new state law says the levy money has to stay with the department.

Corabi said if juvenile court received half of the levy money, the commissioners would have to take the same amount of money out of the general fund to reimburse job and family services.

Commissioner Tom Gentile said job and family services could enter into a contract with juvenile court for the operation of the children’s residential care facility and group home.

Job and family services routinely enters into contracts with other agencies, such as the Community Action Council, for services.

Commissioners want a legal opinion from the prosecutor’s office about whether such a contract complies with the new state law.

Gentile said contracting for the services with juvenile court achieves the same goal as the language of the children services levy.

“The goal is still the same. It is for the children of Jefferson County,” he said.

The existing children’s home only has a couple of children in residence there.

Juvenile court said children are placed in facilities outside the county for specialized services, some of which can cost hundreds of dollars a day, a situation that keeps the children away from their families.

Corabi said his court needs to nail down operational funding for the residential care facility and group home before moving forward on plans for construction.

Mindy Nash of juvenile court said the proposed residential center will house 16 juveniles and the group home will have 10 beds.

Commissioners approved paying for five additional scanners to be used by the board of elections at a cost of $34,560. The scanner will be on standby in the event scanners at polling places fail to properly work.

Diane Gribble, board of elections director, said there are now three spare scanners. She believes that will not be enough for the expected high voter turnout for the presidential election next year.

The board of elections will pay for additional ballot boxes, costing $15,360, out of its budget.

Commissioners signed an agreement with the Jefferson County stormwater consortium group. Brandon Andresen, Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District water quality coordinator, said the consortium, formed in 2003, jointly pays for the state-mandated monitoring and inspection of stormwater from construction projects and other activities. The county will pay for $30,000 of the $82,000 cost. Eleven other cities, villages and townships share in the cost.

Andresen said the cost would be too great for the individual members of the consortium to pay for the services on their own.

Commissioners gave approval to the engineer’s department to purchase a new backhoe at a cost of $106,500. The existing 20-year-old backhoe is in poor condition and is in need of expensive repairs.

Commissioners announced the board will meet on Dec. 20 and not meet the week of Christmas.


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