Finance director retiring
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The city will likely have a new finance director after the end of February, coinciding with the impending retirement of the current one.
On Tuesday, council went into executive session for close to an hour to discuss personnel matters. The agenda included the possible appointment of a finance director. New Law Director Elizabeth Glick said the matter will likely be addressed during the March 2 meeting.
“I think we’ll have some positive things to say on the subject,” Thalman said.
Cindi Henry, who has served as finance director since 2012, has been absent for the past several meetings this year. Councilman Mike Smith commented Henry has been “under the weather.”
Afterward, Thalman confirmed Henry would be stepping down.
“Cindi (will have) retired officially, as of the 28th of February,” Thalman said shortly after the meeting. “We’ve had two strong applicants. … The young lady we’re hoping to hire looks like a very strong fit and looks like she’ll do very well with our city.”
The appointment of administrative positions including finance director, safety and service director, council clerk and police chief has been the subject of heated debates during past meetings. Councilman Frank Sabatino has leveled criticism at Thalman for her decisions in advertising for those positions and in conducting interviews. Councilwoman Linda Jordan has spoken in favor of the current and prior directors and their experience and knowledge of the city.
“I would like to publicly thank Cindi Henry for her willingness to share her knowledge and expertise,” Jordan said during the meeting. “Not only does she know this city’s finances like the back of her hand, but she did implement a software program that was a little more modern, and that implementation resulted in several perfect finance audits over the years. … For 20 years, Cindi was contracted by the state of Ohio to actually train new clerks for cities, townships, villages and fire districts, so we were truly, truly blessed to have her right here handling our finances. She will be missed.”
Henry is a candidate for Belmont County auditor in the March 17 primary election.
In other matters, Sabatino also requested public records of all monetary increases of city employees including changes in salary from Jan. 1 to Feb. 18.
In answer to questions from Sabatino, Thalman said engineer Jeff Vaughn has begun evaluating the city water system to determine the costs of making repairs to meet EPA mandates while maintaining local control. The cost is $25,000.
“He’s working on it now and we need to get it done by April 4,” Thalman said.
A major issue during last year’s election was whether to sell the water and wastewater systems to Aqua Ohio, a private, state-regulated entity or to explore options for meeting EPA mandates locally.
The current safety and service director Jim Zucal and prior mayor Terry Pugh were in favor of privatization but many residents and some council members voiced the opinion that negotiations with Aqua Ohio were proceeding too fast. Thalman’s platform included the promise to explore alternatives. After her election, Aqua Ohio extended its offer to April.
Thalman will be meeting with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday to discuss those mandates and ask if more time can be granted.
“It’s going to be some serious stuff and I’ve got to go over some timelines for expectations from them. It’s gotten to the point where this is serious,” Thalman said.
Council Members Mark Bukmir, Terra Butler, Perry Basile, Sabatino, Smith, Jordan, and Council President Jim Velas were present. Councilwoman Beth Oprisch was absent.