TLC wants solid waste, CAO impasse settled

Published 10:43 am Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Also focusing on Rockwood eyesores

A grassroots volunteer group with a proven track record for cleaning up and beautifying the eastern end of the county wants to extend its reach.

Representatives from Operation Tidy Up Lawrence County came to the Lawrence County Commission at its Tuesday work session to offer their services on two fronts.

Email newsletter signup

First Kathy Gue of Operation TLC asked the commissioners what that organization could do to mediate the dispute between the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization and the county’s solid waste district.

“We come as your allies,” Gue said. “We want to help resolve the conflict. Our county has suffered that the two can’t come together.”

Secondly, the organization wants to help facilitate the demolition of abandoned houses along Rockwood Avenue in Chesapeake.

Since November when the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District broke from its one-time manager, the CAO, the two agencies have been fighting over the distribution of assets of the district.

At issue are seven vehicles formerly used by solid waste but purchased when it was part of the CAO and $157,000 from the 2012 solid waste budget.

“We need to work out the differences,” Gue said. “The litter is glaring. It is not business friendly. We want to make the county clean. We want those two organizations to get together.”

Since it broke from the CAO, the solid waste district has used a donated van and a sheriff’s cruiser on loan from Scioto County to enforce litter and dumping laws in the two counties.

“We have tried to resolve the issue between the two organizations,” Commission President Bill Pratt told Gue, who came to the meeting with Billie Smith, also of TLC.

“The litter is absolutely terrible,” Commissioner Freddie Hayes said. “I am in total support with the solid waste. I am very upset with the CAO.”

All three commissioners are on the solid waste board along with their counterparts from Scioto County. Pratt and Commissioner Les Boggs are also on the CAO board.

Boggs said the commission had asked the Scioto County prosecutor’s office to intervene.

“It looks like this is headed toward court or legal resolution,” Boggs said. “Every one of those vehicles was bought with solid waste district money, just because the CAO had a contract.”

Funding for the solid waste district’s budget comes from the $12 a year parcel fee paid by every property owner in the two counties. From that budget $385,000 was the amount of the yearly contract out of which the CAO was paid administrative and oversight fees. It was out of that $385,000 that the vehicles were purchased.

However, after the split the CAO said the vehicles were its assets and retained titles to the cars and trucks.

“Those vehicles were bought by the CAO, not the county,” D.R. Gossett, CAO director, said. “The county gave us that money for performance with no strings attached. They were happy with the performance, including taking the risk of buying assets and employing individuals.”

As far as aiding in the litter cleanup, Gossett said he has offered to come up with an arrangement where solid waste could lease the vehicles until the issue is resolved

“Even to the extent of deferring any payment on that lease until that is resolved,” he said. “That is something that has been out there for a long time. If there is a means in which (TLC) could facilitate discussion I would be all for it.”

Right now Curt Anderson, attorney for the CAO, and Danielle Parker, assistant Scioto County prosecutor and lawyer for solid waste district, are negotiating the impasse.

“In the meantime we suffer,” Gue said. “It is a power struggle. We have this beautiful county and we need to keep it cleaned up.”

Also on the womens’ agenda were blocks of eyesores caused by the dilapidated and sometimes abandoned houses on the hillside of Rockwood Avenue, a street they said provides one of the most scenic views of the Ohio River.

Pratt told the women that in some cases volunteer firemen can condemn a structure and that will start the demolition process.

A tentative meeting has been set up for the commissioners, Chesapeake volunteer fire department and the Union Township Trustees at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lawrence County Municipal Courthouse.

Neither the women nor the commissioners said they wanted to tear down houses that are currently occupied.

“I would rather target vacant homes,” Pratt said after the meeting.