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County ends year with $900,000 carryover

Lawrence County ended 2009 with a $934,301.65 carryover — the largest in recent years and a few hundred thousand larger than what county officials were expecting.

The commission has also trimmed its outstanding bills to $56,000, Commissioner Les Boggs said Monday.

The commission met Monday morning for its annual organizational meeting and followed it with a regular commission session.

Boggs said 2009 presented “some challenges we’ve never seen before” such as finding a new site for the Lawrence County Juvenile Detention Center. The group home was moved from the old Ironton site to the former Mended Reeds site on State Route 93 in early 2009.

He also listed some positives from the year just ending. Among them: The commission enacted the Caremark discount prescription drug plan, hired a health benefits consultant to administer the employee medical coverage plan, and issued the first ever written state of the county report to give residents a detailed account of the county’s general fund financial standing.

Boggs said in spite of having less revenue to work with, the county managed to reduce its outstanding debts from nearly $500,000 at the beginning of the 2009 to $56,000 by year’s end. He said most of the outstanding debts left are 30 days or less past due and are either for the jail or probate court.

“Some people think the commission was sitting around doing nothing,” Boggs said.

The large carryover — roughly $200,000 larger than the 2008 carryover — and the success in paying debts is due in large part to the sale of the county’s ambulance stations earlier this year as well as the increase in ambulance fees that relieved some of the burden on the cash-strapped general fund.

He praised the auditor’s and treasurer’s offices for closing out the old year’s books at midnight Dec. 31.

Boggs said some items from 2009 are still in the works: such as plans to relocate the engineer’s office to the old state garage on South Sixth Street, and transferring unused land in Rome Township to Ohio University Southern for an outdoor recreation area.

“It is a good day,” Commissioner Doug Malone agreed. “It’s good to be in a new year. Optimism is higher than it was three or four months ago.” He credited other officeholders and county workers with much of the year-end success.

Commissioner Jason Stephens was elected commission president during the organizational meeting. The board of three opted to continue having informal work sessions at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and its regular meetings at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in commission chambers on the third floor of the courthouse.