Archived Story

Firm contracts a must with public monies

Published 12:13am Sunday, December 9, 2012

Some divorces end with the relationship so fractured that the two parties can no longer live with each other, yet they still find a way to split gracefully for the benefit of their children or out of respect for the years of marriage.

That is an approach we would like to see taken by the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization and the Lawrence Scioto Solid Waste Management District.

In this case, the “children” are the citizens of Lawrence and Scioto counties who are counting on both organizations to focus on bettering the community instead of backroom name-calling, bickering and grudges.

For reasons that have still never been fully explained to the public, the solid waste district split from the CAO, the organization that essentially created the agency and operated it very effectively for more than a decade. But a dispute over who owns the assets – namely several vehicles and the equipment used by the solid waste district – has left that agency crippled and somewhat unfairly given a black eye to the CAO for maintaining that all the assets purchased over the years are owned by that organization.

No one wins in a prolonged legal battle except for the attorneys who get to cash big checks that would likely include more taxpayer money.

The CAO is correct when it says that it was essentially fulfilling a contract to operate the solid waste district and how it spent the money it was paid was up to it. Legally, the CAO is likely correct that the assets are their property.

The solid waste district also has a valid point in its assertion that these assets were bought with tax dollars, the CAO wouldn’t have been able to purchase them otherwise and that everything should remain property of the citizens of Lawrence County.

Although we have not seen the original agreement, the language is reportedly very vague and strengthens the CAO’s position. But solid waste district officials are correct as well in that they need the equipment to operate and continue the important work that it does.

The biggest problem may be that the county did not have a stronger contract with the CAO that spelled out these contingencies. This should certainly be remedied in the future and county leaders need to be very detailed with all contracts using taxpayer money.

The best solution would be for the CAO to quickly determine the assets that were purchased over the years for solid waste and sell them back to that agency at their current market value.

The CAO wins because it gets some value from the assets and takes the proverbial high road in the dispute. The solid waste district wins because it has everything it needs to quickly resume the fight against illegal dumping and garbage disposal.

And, perhaps most importantly, the taxpayers win because the money generated from years of a property tax levy wasn’t just spent on year-to-year operations, but instead on building the foundation for an agency that can continue to make the county a cleaner place to live.

The marriage may be over but the shared past merits consideration for the future.


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