Lawsuit for levy money may arise

STEUBENVILLE – The Jefferson County commissioners Thursday were informed by Amy Mihalyo of Jefferson County Senior Services that a lawsuit is being considered to get part of the levy money earmarked for Prime Time for her organization.

Mihalyo approached the commissioners during the past several years trying to get some of the money from the Prime Time levy for her organization. The 1-mill levy was renewed with a 0.2 mill increase on the May primary election ballot. The issue had a header stating it was to provide money to Prime Time.

Commissioners received an opinion in May from the county prosecutor’s office that indicated money from the levy cannot be given to another organization, said county Commissioner Thomas Graham. Mihalyo has asked for a copy of the opinion, but the commissioners have refused, saying the threat of a lawsuit has made the opinion a part of attorney-client privilege.

County Commissioners David Maple and Tom Gentile said they have to follow the advice of the prosecutor’s office about the opinion now being considered to fall under attorney-client privilege.

Mihalyo had questioned the language of the levy on the primary ballot. The prosecutor did issue an opinion in April stating the language was correct.

Mihalyo said she is considering some “action.”

Mihalyo in April 2013 requested the county allocate $90,000 of the $1.1 million in the county’s senior citizens services levy to her organization for the operation of the Jefferson County Senior Services center, located at 132 Hollywood Blvd.

Mihalyo said at the time the organization received foundation funding for programs at its senior center, but was in need of operational money or faced the prospect of closing.

Commissioners also were informed the Jefferson County Humane Society received a $22,600 grant from the J.C. Williams Trust to build two additional dog runs at the county animal shelter at the county airport.

Sally Wehr, humane society president, said the dog runs will be constructed adjacent to existing dog runs. She said the runs will allow more time for the dogs to be outside, and will be easier for staff to clean.

Work is expected to start in the next few weeks.

Commissioners opened four bids for a bridge rehabilitation project on county Road 39. The engineer’s estimate was $748,874. BOG Construction of Berlin Center submitted the apparent low bid of $673,234.

County Engineer James Branagan said workers at his department will receive a pay increase of 3 percent as part of a contract wage reopener. Branagan said the pay increase is based on the performance and professionalism of the workers. He said the engineer’s department didn’t have any difficulty in getting drivers out for overtime this past winter for snow and ice control.

Branagan said he also is concerned about losing experienced workers to the oil and gas industry.

The pay increase will amount to $48,000 a year, Branagan said.

Commissioners were told the county has saved $186,000 for 18 months by switching its electric service provider.

Dan Taylor of 5 Star Energy Group Inc. said the county is on track to save more than $550,000 by the end of the three-year agreement.