Treasurer#8217;s Office seeks #8216;lost#8217; funds

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

PROCTORVILLE — “I was extremely skeptical at first,” said James Whyte, of Proctorville, recounting his story of how he got $3,664 he didn’t know was due him. “Things just don’t happen like this very often.”

But he’s a believer now, thanks to the Lawrence County Treasurer’s Office.

Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham is making a push to help Lawrence Countians determine if they are owed unclaimed funds that are being held by the state.

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Periodically, the Ohio Department of Commerce assembles a list of people who are owed money but cannot be located through conventional means for one reason or another.

After the individual companies and organizations that owe the funds exhaust their efforts to find the people owed the money, they forward the money and whatever information they have to the commerce office where it is kept until claimed.

The list of unclaimed funds and the prospective recipients is sent to the treasurer’s office in each county.

For the first time ever, the Lawrence County Treasurer’s Office is taking what Burcham calls a “proactive stance” and trying to track down individuals whose names appear on the list.

The amount owed to Lawrence Countians or to people who have some tie to the county totals $1,137,034. The individual amounts range from $10 to a few thousand.

“The money could come from a variety of sources,” Burcham said. “It could be utility refunds, dividends from stocks. It could be where an insurance company changed from a mutual company to a for-profit organization. For some it was salaries that were not paid.”

There are also a number of reasons why the money was not paid. For some, the change from rural route house numbering to the 911 house numbering prevented some people from getting their funds. Some people owed money may have moved or changed jobs.

For Whyte,

his former employer, Alliant Food Service, was bought by another company, U.S. Food Service, in 2002.

Whyte thought he was paid all the money he was owed. Finding out four years later there was another check coming was a pleasant if not also unexpected surprise. He said he is thankful for the phone call from Burcham’s office. He said he is also thankful Burcham took the time to track him down.

“I was very impressed. Mr. Burcham took a lot of time and went out of his way to make this happen,” Whyte said. “You know, you hear a lot about public officials working for us individuals but how often does this kind of thing happen?”

While treasurer’s office staff members have been cross referencing their Commerce Department list with the local telephone book and then calling people, Burcham said he is willing to meet with civic groups, churches or even businesses and offer his services to employees, patrons and anyone who wants to determine if thy are owed money.

He will also help people fill out the necessary paperwork that must be sent to the state to collect the funds. Burcham’s services are free of charge. Those interested may call the treasurer’s office at 533-4304.

“If I can get $1.1 million back in Lawrence County instead of sitting in some bank in Columbus, then it will help out an awful lot of people and help out this area,” Burcham said.