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County weighs plan for bureau

County officials might follow through soon on a plan to either privatize the Lawrence County Child Support Enforcement Agency or place it under the arm of the county’s Department of Human Services.

Tuesday, November 02, 1999

County officials might follow through soon on a plan to either privatize the Lawrence County Child Support Enforcement Agency or place it under the arm of the county’s Department of Human Services.

State auditors are supposed to finish reports by the end of the week, then recommendations will go back to the commission for direction, said Buddy Martin, DHS director and temporary CSEA director.

"The state auditors have been observing things and saying we need to do a better job at this or that to improve the operations," he said.

The temporary CSEA directorship will give Martin the latitude to make changes and go back to the commission with suggestions, he said.

Commission president Bruce Trent said the more detailed state audit and Martin’s information likely will be used this year.

"We still need time to assess but we do feel like that whatever recommendations are made, we would want to not delay in implementing them," Trent said.

Trent added that any changes would be a continuation of plans when the county first reorganized the agency a couple of years ago.

Commissioners appointed Martin as temporary director Sept. 23, and asked for studies of the CSEA’s operations and future structure.

Although that future remains under discussion, recent talks in commission meetings indicate that it’s a proactive move aimed at helping children who deserve child support, agency executive director Susan Brown has said.

It should not be considered a threat to personnel, Martin said.

The county simply is seeking ways to make the agency more efficient, he added.

"It’s doing well in terms of collections, it’s just some of the reporting mechanisms and internal policies that may need work," Martin said.

Such work will make the agency more user friendly for the general public, and the more user friendly it becomes, the more efficient it will be in terms of protecting those who receive child support, he said.

Changes in CSEA operations could go many different ways – either by incorporating its services into DHS, by keeping it the way it is, or by using a private contractor to help collect, Martin said.

The CSEA operations reflect similar policies and procedures used by the Ohio Department of Human Services, which help a particular part of the public, but no final decision has been made, he said.

"We’re not criticizing what they have done," Martin said.

All parties concerned want to clean up procedural items so operations can run more efficiently, he said.

"And this is the way to look at those options."