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Commissioners seek opinion on spending gas tax funds

Does the Lawrence County Commission have the authority to expend state Motor Vehicle Gasoline Tax (MVGT) funds that are allotted each year to the county engineer’s office — so long as that money is spent on road and road-related projects for which this money is earmarked?

That’s the question commissioners are asking the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office. The commission frequently fields angry comments from residents who complain various road issues are not being addressed by the county engineer’s office. While commissioners usually explain they do not have the authority to force the engineer to do anything, they usually send a letter to the engineer’s office on behalf of the angry resident, requesting attention to the problem. But if the problem is not resolved, what then?

“Can we bid things out?” Commissioner Jason Stephens asked. “Can the commission do purchase orders and have the work done?” Stephens said he doubted the commission could expend MVGT monies but he wanted to at least ask.

Although the motion to request an opinion was already on the agenda for a vote, it may have seemed tailor-made for Hamilton Township resident Jim Kelly, who expressed his frustration Thursday over the condition of County Road 128.

Kelly said he has repeatedly complained to the engineer’s office, to no avail.

“I’ve been down there so many times I’ve about got the carpet wore out,” Kelly told the commissioners.

In other matters, the commission awarded a tentative construction contract to Mechanical Construction for the belt sludge project at the Union-Rome Sewer plant.

The $1,019,102 contract is below the original bid estimate of $2 million.

At this point, half of the approximate cost of the belt sludge press project would come from an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency grant and half from a loan.

However, the county is also hoping to get federal stimulus funds to help pay for the sludge press. It is not part of the larger sewer plant project.