Commissioners talk seniors, DJFS

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Belmont County Commissioners led their Wednesday meeting by fielding questions about county agencies and senior services.

In response to questions from visitors, commissioners reported that the 21 Department of Job and Family Services employees who may be laid off have not yet been notified.

Commissioner Ginny Favede noted the state-level funding cuts to allocations for income maintenance, and Belmont County’s DJFS had a ceiling excess in that field. She added that state cuts are across the board for county DJFS offices.

“I think it’s happening everywhere, it’s just hitting us a little harder,” said Commissioner Matt Coffland.

Favede also said the commissioners were working with an experienced attorney to restructure the organization and explore other options beside layoffs.

“We are trying to do everything we possibly can to see the minimum amount of people are laid off,” Favede said, adding that this issue has taken precedence over other plans regarding the department, such as establishing a separate agency for senior services.

She added that the commissioners are also concerned about possible changes to how Medicaid and Medicare are administered in Ohio. She said the programs may be distributed on a state rather than local level.

Commissioner Charles R. Probst Jr. added that most of the layoffs would be in the current and public assistance sector of Human Services, plus some managers. He agreed that options are being looked at.

“We are re-organizing the whole agency, not just focusing on layoffs,” he said.

Clarence Briggs, visitor, asked Coffland to clarify a comment made while visiting a senior center to the effect that if the services under DJFS Director Dwayne Pielech could not handle the capacity, more people could be hired.

Coffland said senior services were funded through the levy, which is sufficient, while the DJFS cuts are in income maintenance.

Coffland proposed leaving senior services under DJFS and move four employees into full-time positions with senior services.

He estimated each would have a salary of $50,000 for a total yearly expense of about $200,000.

Coffland argued that the same amount is currently being paid to more employees who devote a small percentage of time to senior services compared to four full-time employees working solely with senior services and being paid solely from the levy. In addition, he noted the employees currently working with senior services are already trained and familiar with the duties and demands.

He said such a move would allow DJFS to retain four income maintenance jobs.

Coffland also noted the value of seeking the input and desires of the seniors who would be affected.

Favede said she was opposed to any use of senior services funds to subsidize DJFS operations. Coffland said that it was illegal to use the levy money to subsidize any operation other than senior services.

In other matters, board approved a purchase authorization from SimplexGrinnell to renew the fire alarm parts and labor contract with Annual Inspection for the jail. Total amount is $7,778. It is effective Feb. 1, 2013-Jan. 31, 2014.

Commissioners motioned to reduce legal axle limit on roads in Wayne Township by 50 percent from Dec. 1, 2012-April 15, 2013.

Commissioners entered into a roadway use and maintenance agreement for pipeline and compressor projects and infrastructure with Ohio Gathering Co., LLC for the use of 0.4 miles of County Road 104 for ingress and egress from the Spencer to Arrowhead trunk pipeline and the Seneca plant to Cadiz plant pipeline. A $160,000 bond will be posted.

Commissioners entered into three roadway use and maintenance agreements for drilling projects and infrastructure with Gulfport Energy Corporation for use of county roads for ingress and egress to drilling sites. These include the use of 1.6 miles of County Road 100 for the Coal Run-Eagle Creek site, with a bond of $160,000, 3.91 miles of County Road 128 for the Slope Creek-Inherst site, and 0.7 miles for the Dog-Hollow-McCort site.

Marlin Harper was reappointed to the county Board of Developmental Disabilities for four years, Jan. 1, 2013-Dec. 31, 2016.

Commissioners approved an agreement between the Board of Developmental Disabilities and the county EMA for the purchase of gasoline at five cents above the board’s cost. Agreement is effective Jan 1, 2013-Dec. 31, 2013.

Board approved an annual reorganizational meeting for Jan. 14, 10 a.m.

The next scheduled meeting will be Thursday Dec. 27 at 10 a.m.

DeFrank can be reached at