CAO responds to Solid Waste District

February 5, 2013

Wayne Allen

PDT Staff Writer

The divorce between the Lawrence-Scioto County Solid Waste Management District and the the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization has been a messy one, but for three months the Ironton-Lawrence County CAO has been generally quiet.

On Tuesday, D.R. Gossett, Director of the Ironton-Lawrence County CAO chose to respond to allegations made against his organization after multiple attempts seeking comment from the Daily Times.

“It’s disappointing to see this issue turn into a contentious issue. We’ve always tried to work things out and it’s gotten to a point where we could not get folks to talk with us,” Gossett said. “We are hopeful to be able to come up with a resolution. We’ve offered a couple of different ideas but, we’ll see.”

In the transition away from their business partnership, there as been a dispute between the agencies over the ownership of vehicles formerly operated by the district and about $150,000 in funding.

When asked why the CAO is holding on to the titles of the vehicles, Gossett said, “Many years ago we (CAO) made a proposal to the Solid Waste District. We did this at a point in time when they did not know they were a Solid Waste District. They had a quarter of a million dollars in fines from the EPA against them for not having a plan.”

He said the CAO wrote a plan for the Solid Waste District that subsequently saw the district established.

“We contributed staff, we contributed lots of money and contributed the first vehicles that went into it. Over time we replaced those vehicles, but the relationship we always had was a fee for services, a very simple relationship,” Gossett said. “We had given them an idea of what it would take to run the district and that’s what we were paid. We took the risk of employing the individuals, we provided equipment and facilities for them. For us, it was a long-term relationship. It’s like any municipality that hires a company to pave roads for them and at some point they decide they no longer want to use your company, but then they want your steamroller as well.”

He said the split between the two organizations came as a surprise to him and his board of directors.

“When you start to unwind the relationship, you could go through that with a strategy. That’s where we could have avoided what were having now through the news media,” Gossett said. “When they surprised us with leaving, it tied our hands in a lot of ways, because it was done without it being discussed.”

Gossett said meaningful discussion would be the path toward a solution.

“We have a month and a half we have not gotten paid for. I think if we could all just sit and talk, there are ways to work through these issues,” Gossett said.

Gossett said one of the solutions that’s been offered by his organization was a lease agreement.

“We offered to allow a use agreement to them until any legal option that they would get. I reached out to the board chairman and to Dan (Palmer, LSSWMD Director) and said we could quote, unquote lease these vehicles and defer any collection.”

He said the proposal was met with no response from the leadership of the Solid Waste District.

Gossett said at the time the two organizations parted ways, he advised the Solid Waste Board of Directors that there was going to be a problem with the vehicles and that he would approach the CAO Board of Directors about giving them the vehicles.

“I could not assure that our board would go for it. I was not going to sugar coat the issue, I told them for public relations purposes and for the ongoing relationship with the Lawrence County Commissioners, I think it’s a good business decision and community decision for us to transfer the vehicles. I could not get that done,” Gossett said. “From our stand point, aside from the fact that we have not perused getting our vehicles back from them, that’s really the only thing that I have been getting questions about from our board members.”

When it comes to the issue of Solid Waste funds remaining with CAO, Gossett said, there are no Solid Waste funds currently at CAO.

“That is a complete mystery to me. We are actually owed for a month and a half. We were always paid in a lump sum based upon an agreed upon amount and we’re short about a month and a half,” Gossett said. “The Solid Waste’s administrative budget was somewhere around $300,000 and if you divide that by 12 that’s how much we are owed.”

Gossett said he sees communication as being solution to the dispute.

“I think there are ways we can come up with to find some middle ground. As it is now, we have to see what their agenda is through the newspaper and we have attorneys talking to each other,” Gossett said. “From our standpoint I wanted to put this issue behind us. They have to understand that whatever is done, is done out of our desire to move ahead. It’s not going to be done because they tried to beat us up in the paper or threaten us with legal action. That goes no where because, as I’ve said all along, there is no legal standing for it.”

Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or tallen@civitasmedia.com