Commissioners take action on sewer contracts

By Ivy Potter - [email protected]

Unresolved sanitation bills between the City and County was one topic of discussion at Thursday’s Scioto County Commissioners meeting.

The Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution authorizing Scioto County Prosecutor Shane Tieman to enter into negotiations with Portsmouth City Solicitor John Haas in relation to the sanitation bills on behalf of the commissioners.

“Sometimes you have to put it in the hands of the prosecutor,” said Chair of Commissioners Mike Crabtree. “It’s been a long time, so if it’s going to happen something has to move.”

“I don’t think our position has changed,” said Commissioner Bryan Davis. “

“All of our actions up to this state have been in total compliance with the contracts that are in question, which are for Rosemount and Rigrish. Eden Park as you know, was resolved some time ago. We have not received to date verifiable work that has been done on the system that would lend itself to having received an increase in sewer rates,” said Davis. Commissioners stated they received a letter from Richard Duncan, director of Wastewater and Floodwater Defense, that stated work had not been done in the dates which showed an increase. Davis stated he did understand some work had been completed in Rosemount in July of this year.

“We have not received, and I don’t understand, why we cannot receive a proposed contract if the city does not like the way the contracts are now. We were told in December of 2017 that proposals were coming, and we haven’t’ received those. We were told again over a month ago, probably two months now in a meeting that the solicitor would be proposing new contracts. We haven’t received any proposals whatsoever,” Davis continued. “In the meantime the county continues to put those monies that would have been paid to the city in escrow, they are in the bank. We’re doing that per the contract. Doing anything outside of the realm of the contract would be against the spirit of the contract, and that’s a legal term, but you can’t do those things,” said Davis.

Commissioners stated they were acting under the advice of counsel.

“There may be a fix to this, to remedy this issue and our actions today are to give the prosecutors office via resolution, empower them to do so,” said Davis.

According to commissioners the original contracts are decades old, with the Rosemount contract, which is now expired with commissioners acting under a course of conduct based on previous years, being approximately 30 years old and Rigrish just slightly newer and still enforced.

“Those funds have been earmarked for that purpose only and cannot be used for anything else,” said assistant prosecuting attorney Danielle Parker. “The funds are just sitting in an account, the best thing to happen is for the city to give us some justification to give them the money we owe them. It’s just going to sit in that account until the parties can come to an agreement. There’s no other way to use that fund, and I think people may get confused that we’re just keeping money, and that’s not the case,” Parker said.

“The county commissioners want to resolve this, we have tried to resolve this and by independently talking to members of city council, they want this resolved too,” Davis said. Davis insisted that neither party was mad or upset, and that the disputes were purely limited to legal matters. “This is 100% contract,” said Davis.

“We have discussed proposing contract language to resolve future issues and the current issues we have,” said Parker. “ I hope that myself and (Solicitor) Haas could maybe sit down and hash out a situation that gets the money to them, maybe not the rates that they want, but nothing else can be done with that money and get the justification for July. Maybe something as simple as paying the old rates up until July and kick in the new rates that was billed to us for Rosemount.”

Crabtree stated that while the rate increases were implemented under the former city manager, it is up to the city solicitor to make the next move in order to move forward. “And the end of the day the city solicitor has to do the work,” said Davis. “If this attempt to negotiate takes place and nothing happens, I think it might be time for the city to be looking at a new solicitor,” said Commissioner Cathy Coleman.

By Ivy Potter

[email protected]

Reach: Ivy Potter (740) 353-3101 Extension 1932

Reach: Ivy Potter (740) 353-3101 Extension 1932