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Medical bills could get decreased: Boggs to ask for more money to appropriate

The $165,730 bill the county owes to St. Mary’s Medical Center for treating county jail inmates has gotten cut by a third following negotiations between commission president Les Boggs and the hospital.

About a month ago, the commissioners learned that the county had not paid St. Mary’s for the past three years. In fact, the last time the county made a payment for inmate care was in 2004 to SOMC in Portsmouth for $24,988.

“I wasn’t aware we owed that money,” Boggs said at Thursday’s regular commission meeting, the first for the new year.

Through the negotiations, the medical center will allow a discount of approximately $55,000.

Boggs said he intends to go to the next budget commission meeting to ask for an increase in certification of revenue to enable the county commission to appropriate the money owed to St. Mary’s.

“If we pay in full, we will be able to receive quite a discount,” he said.

The budget commission must certify revenue before the county can spend it. The current certification of funds that could go for that debt is $13,660,356 from the administrative portion of the general fund plus the one-half percent sales tax for emergency services. In those two funds, only $14,000 is left to be appropriated.

County auditor Jason Stephens said after the meeting, however, that he didn’t see any reason to increase the certification until after the biennium budget is in place on July 1. There is currently no date set for the next budget commission meeting.

Currently the three members of the budget commission are disputing who has the authority to determine revenue certification. Stephens contends it is his responsibility exclusively as the county’s fiscal officer while the other two members, county prosecutor Brigham Anderson and county treasurer Stephen Burcham, say that the majority vote of the three members should decide. That commission has asked for a state attorney general’s opinion on this.

Boggs said he hoped the county could begin paying inmate medical costs on a monthly basis.

Also at the meeting the commissioners agreed to send a letter of appreciation to Ohio Department of Transportation director Jerry Wray following the county receiving $5.5 million from the state for right of way acquisition for the Chesapeake Bypass. The bypass is the final section linking Huntington, West Virginia, through Proctorville to Ironton.

“Jerry Wray was part of District 9 (that takes in Lawrence County) during part of the construction process of the part that crosses Symmes Creek,” said commissioner Bill Pratt, who made the motion for the letter. “Jerry Wray knows the importance of finishing this.”

Another $6 to $8 million will be needed to acquire all the land for the roadway construction.

Burcham reported a negotiated sale tax liens on 23 parcels were purchased by Propel Financial Services in San Antonio, Texas, bringing in $102,000 in delinquent taxes, interest and fees to the county. These were liens that TaxEase of Cincinnati chose not to purchase. TaxEase had previously purchased liens that were not bought through public sales.

There have been 10 tax lien public auction sales and 33 negotiated sales since Burcham started the program four years ago that have brought in $4.8 million in delinquent taxes.

In other action the commission:

• Approved payment on the Chesapeake Streetscape Improvement project of $39,536 to Fields Excavating Inc. and $9,854 to E.L. Robinson for sidewalks in the eastern end of the village with Community Development Block Grants;

• Approved the promotion of Lori Brownstead from clerical specialist to income maintenance worker at the department of job and family services;

• Appointed Kevin Turvey as the 2015 apiary inspector for $2,000 a year;

• Approved the appointment of Boggs and commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr. as voting representatives for the County Commissioners Association of Ohio;

• Approved the weekly dog warden report for Dec. 20 where no dogs were destroyed, 20 were adopted or went to rescue and no dogs were redeemed by owners; and for Dec. 27 where no dogs were destroyed, 16 were adopted or went to rescue and no dogs were redeemed.