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City to be reimbursed for grant writers

Although two grant writers' future with Ironton is still unclear, the city will be reimbursed the $6,023 owed to them by the Scioto County Community Action Organization.

CAO representatives Steve Sturgill, operations director, and Luanne Valentine, adult programs supervisor, attended a special session of the Ironton City Council Monday to discuss the audit that terminated the contract that paid for the grant writers, Council Chairman Jesse Roberts said.

Sturgill apologized for the problems and said he hopes for a ruling from the Department of Labor by Friday at the latest, Roberts said.

At a regular meeting last Thursday, Council was informed that the U.S. Department of Labor was auditing the Scioto County CAO. A letter from the CAO stated that it was determined the scope of the National Reserve Grant didn't cover retraining the former employees of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant in Piketon.

Grant writers Kevin Clausing and Cindy Quillen were sent home last Thursday and will not return to work unless new contracts are negotiated. The memo stated that there are no provisions for subsidized employment in the Workforce Investment Act the workers were hired under.

"I think everyone was trying to do what was right," Roberts said. "They were trying to use the dollars available and be innovative, but it didn't satisfy the Department of Labor."

Regardless of the findings, CAO representatives said they would be responsible for the $6,023 owed to the city, Councilman Richard Price said. No time frame was set for reimbursement.

Price emphasized that no one is at fault. The CAO was trying to help the city and it is appreciated that they would look at this, he said.

Councilman John Elam echoed these sentiments.

"Everyone went into this with 100-percent good intentions," Elam said. "I still think there is a niche that needs to be filled through grant writers or economic development personnel."

Elam said he appreciated the CAO coming to the meeting to explain and at least attempting an "innovative, joint concept for recognizing the combined needs of counties in Southern Ohio."

The original 12-month contract that paid 100 percent of writers' salary and benefits has been terminated. The CAO and the city may be able to renegotiate the contract with the Department of Labor to employ the grant writers for six months, Roberts said.

For a new contract to be negotiated, it would have to go through the finance committee, get the mayor's signature and pass an ordinance again. If a six-month contract is agreed on, the writers would have three and a half months remaining because of time already worked, Roberts said.

Although the writers were working hard and making some progress, Roberts said that to the best of his knowledge there are no grant applications being processed. Michael Caldwell/The Ironton Tribune