Archived Story

Staff using Scioto cruiser while vehicles in dispute

Published 9:53am Thursday, December 13, 2012

A used cruiser from the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office will be used by the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District while a dispute about ownership of the district’s vehicles remains ongoing.

In mid-November the district split from the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization that had operated the solid waste agency since the 1990s after the district’s board voted for it to become an independent agency.

About a week after that, the CAO board declined to transfer titles to the district for four cars, two trailers and a litter van that had been used by solid waste employees, saying the vehicles were CAO property and that they did not belong to the solid waste district.

District director Dan Palmer said that 10 days later the CAO informed the district that it was dropping insurance coverage on all the vehicles. The vehicles were in the possession of the solid waste district employees, where they currently remain.

Without titles the solid waste district cannot get insurance coverage for the cars and cannot legally drive them.

However, CAO director D.R. Gossett said the insurance coverage was not dropped but, since the solid waste district staff is no longer CAO employees, that the insurance policy would not covered their driving the cars.

Now the solid waste board has authorized its attorney, Danielle Parker, of the Scioto County Prosecutor’s Office, to get the vehicles back. Until the ownership issue is resolved, the solid waste board authorized the district employees either to rent cars or receive mileage to operate their personal cars.

However the district reached out to Scioto County for a vehicle.

Gossett has also offered a proposal for use of the disputed vehicles but no action has been taken by the solid waste board at this time.

“A use agreement until the final resolution, whatever the option, if there was interest to make life as easy for them as possible,” Gossett said.

During the years that the CAO administered the solid waste district Lawrence County, acting as the district’s fiscal agent, transferred $385,000 a year to the CAO to run the program. That money came from the $12 a year parcel fee levied on property owners in Lawrence and Scioto counties. That fee brings in on average $640,000 a year.

From that $385,000 the CAO paid the salaries of the district’s four employees and purchased supplies and assets including the vehicles. However, when the CAO took over management of the district, the CAO provided cars from its fleet. Over the years those cars were updated.

The balance from the parcel fee was administered by the solid waste district to run various programs.

Now all funds from the parcel fee will be administered by the solid waste district.

According to Palmer, the projected 2013 budget is $865,000 — $640,000 from the parcel fee and $225,000 from a projected cash balance.

From that salaries will be $160,286.40 for four employees. That compares to a 2011 audit when the CAO was in charge when salaries for four employees was $151,406.

Total benefits for 2013 are projected to e $94,169.

Of that, public retirement will be $23,440 with the district paying the employer’s 14 percent portion; Medicare at $2,424.15; medical insurance at $64,817.80; dental insurance at $1,560; vision insurance at $1,560 and life insurance at $368.80

Fringe benefits in 2011 were $86,458, according to information supplied by Gossett.

When the district broke from the CAO, Lawrence County Auditor Jason Stephens declined to remain as the solid waste’s fiscal agent. Palmer recently said that decision has aroused comments from the community as to why the district turned to Scioto County Auditor to act as fiscal agent.

“The reason being we tried to work this out before all this existed with the separation from the CAO,” Palmer said. “The Lawrence County Auditor was previously the fiscal agent. Due to us separating from the CAO the county auditor refused to be our fiscal agent. So we had no alternative. We had a special board meeting but to go to Scioto County. David Green (Scioto County Auditor) more than agreed to be our fiscal agent.”

Jason Stephens said he declined to remain as fiscal agent because it would increase the duties in his office.

“First I didn’t think (the split) was a good move to do,” Stephens said. “And secondly, it would have created more work load for our office. Every expense would be a purchase order and check. I wasn’t for it. I wasn’t mad. It wasn’t controversial or confrontational. I just didn’t agree with it. For us to write a check to the CAO was not too big a deal. But dealing with payroll, benefits and human resources, we didn’t need to take that on, especially since it was working as it was.”

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