Solid waste district cuts ties with CAO

Published 12:13 am Sunday, October 28, 2012

As of Nov. 12, the daily workings of the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste District will no longer be under the direction of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization.

At a specially called meeting of the district’s board on Thursday, the four members present voted to sever ties with the CAO, a relationship that began in the late 1990s.

The board is made up of the three commissioners from the two counties. Attending the meeting were Lawrence County Commissioners Les Boggs and Freddie Hayes and Scioto County Commissioners Tom Reiser and Skip Riffe.

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“We are going to be an independent agency,” Dan Palmer, director of the district, said. “All of our invoices, payroll, our insurance will all be done by David Green (auditor) at Scioto County, our fiscal agent.”

While Scioto County will be managing the money, the district headquarters will be at 109 N. Third St., Ironton, instead of at the CAO headquarters on Fifth Street, the former home of Ironton founder John Campbell.

All five employees of the district will now be Scioto County employees with county benefits and state retirement. Previously they were employees of the CAO, a private non-profit organization, and did not receive county and state benefits.

“I think it is a great thing,” Palmer said. “It is long overdue. It won’t affect people in any way. Our services will remain the same. We will still continue to do the projects we do. Do all the many programs of the district. We will continue to do that.”

The yearly contract between the district and the CAO was $385,000 out of which the CAO was paid an administrative fee. Palmer declined to state what that fee was and referred questions to Reiser.

However, D.R. Gossett, director of the CAO, said out of that figure, approximately $8,000 went for an accounting fee for the CAO to do payroll and books and an indirect fee of $9,000 to $10,000 for oversight, also to the CAO. The rest of the contract fee covered the salaries of the district’s employees.

“It went almost all of it for salaries and fringe benefits,” Gossett said. “They had a lot of materials they would buy for cleanup day and awareness promotions. But, compared to the salaries, that was pretty minimal.”

The majority of the district’s annual revenue comes from the $1 a month parcel fee all property owners in Lawrence and Scioto counties pay on their property taxes.

This year that revenue has come in at $640,919. The district also receives grants that are used toward their programs, which include the Lawrence County Cleanup Day in May; the drug takeback; household hazardous waste collection; education in schools and litter enforcement.

Besides Palmer, there are four other employees of the district: Steve Hileman, enforcement officer; Stephanie Helms, education coordinator; Larry Coleman, litter control for Lawrence County; and Jeff Crippen, litter control for Scioto County.

The CAO took over operation of the solid waste district in the late 1990s after it had run into problems with the state Environmental Protection Agency.

“Lawrence and Scioto counties had not implemented the program according to Ohio EPA rules,” according to County Engineer Doug Cade, who was with the CAO at that time. “The Ohio EPA was in the process of writing the solid waste management plan because our county and Scioto County had failed to do so. So the CAO made a proposal to the Lawrence and Scioto County Commissioners to operate and manage the solid waste district.”

The district, whose existence is mandated by the Ohio Revised Code, did not put on the parcel fee until around 2001.

“That was because, after the plan was written, the state said ‘Lawrence and Scioto County, you do not have a mechanism to fund it,’” Cade said.

The ORC allows the district to impose a fee or receive funding from the county commissioners.

County Auditor Jason Stephens was elected a county commissioner about the time the CAO took over the district’s management.

“When I was a commissioner, I was proud of the way we established the solid waste district after a lot of battles with the EPA,” Stephens said. “Our community was better off. I appreciate the structure that was set up by the CAO to allow the district to be very successful in the past. It has been proven to work. Only time will tell in the future if this new fiscal structure will work.”

Gossett said the change will not affect the CAO.

“It doesn’t have any big effect on us other than we are proud of what we accomplished,” he said. “It is one the top performing districts in the state. … We are proud of the district. You hate to see the thing go down the road. It was a great point of pride. I am hopeful they are able to carry on the way they have done. I am sure they will. I will be rooting for them.”

Calls made to Boggs and Reiser were not returned by press time.