Division courts push for full-time pay

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Wednesday’s Belmont County commissioners’ meeting featured a lengthy executive session with three county court judges and the prosecutor’s office, resulting in the commissioners asking for further clarification of a court order.

Last week, commissioners received a court order filed by the Northern, Western and Eastern Division judges asking for full-time status for the court employees. They currently are paid for 70 hours, but judges say their extra work qualifies them for 80 hours. The order declares their courts in compliance with the juvenile, probate, general and common pleas courts. The judges object to the different pay rates and noted that courts set their own hours.

Commissioners asked for clarification, including a list of impacted employees. The commissioners could face legal repercussions if action is not taken, The order is effective June 1.

In other matters, guests asked if an extensive report of senior services could be given regarding ongoing work and the state of establishing a new department. Consensus among the commissioners was that a new senior services coordinator should be selected before a report would be given, rather than to make a presentation during a period of transition when all employees are occupied. Commissioner Charles R. Probst Jr. noted there have been no complaints. Commissioner Matt Coffland dissented, saying he approved of an update.

In answer to an inquiry if added casino and sales tax could be used for road and bridge repair, commissioners noted the current expenses around the courthouse including a common pleas courtroom upgrade. Until the auditor initiates certification of this year this is no additional money to be certified.

In addition, Probst noted he will meet with the county engineer soon and added there is hope of freeing $500,000 to $1 million for paving on areas in need.

Commissioners approved and authorized a service agreement with Code Red on behalf of Belmont County 911 to provide a speedy notification system, effective June 1, 2013. Code Red’s service agreement is $17,500 per year, the integrated public alert warning system (IPAWS) for $1500 per year, and a weather warning system of $1,000 per year for a total of $20,000.

Action 911 Director Bryan Minder spoke about the system upgrade. He noted that they currently use the Citywatch system for emergency notifications to sent word to people in the county in the event of emergency. However, Citywatch is a slower system, now bought out by Code Red, and dials only 24 phone number at a time. Notification for the entire county could take 10-12 hours. He noted the slow progress in contacting Martins Ferry residents during a missing child case last year. Code Red is a system that houses all of the hardware and phone lines and can complete a countywide notification of every resident in 15-20 minutes.

The increase over what the county was paying Citywatch comes to about $4,000. The IPAWS system will broadcast emergency notifications across cellular phones, television and radio. The weather warning alert is voluntary for people who wish to sign up at the site to receive alerts for flood and tornado warnings and other emergencies.

Commissioners awarded a bit to furnish and apply liquid bituminous material for dust control on various county highways to Lash Paving Inc. for $199,880. Lash Paving was the only bidder.

Commissioners approved the hiring Albert McMahon as a summer student employee for the sanitary sewer district at the rate of $7.85/hour effective May 28.

Commissioners accepted the proposal of JD&E Contractors and Engineers in the amount of $19,655 for custom woodwork and furniture for the common pleas court renovation project.

Commissioners accepted a proposal of $6,380.64 for carpet for the renovation project. Cost is 168 yards at $36.98 per square yard or $6,212.64, plus shipping.

Commissioners motioned to hire Yvonne Sue Bell, Dan Walls and John Bruner as part-time Class Three operators of the Belmont County Sanitary Sewer District water treatment plant for $30 per hours effective June 3.

DeFrank can be reached at