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Office moves debated in Jefferson County

August 23, 2013
By MARK LAW - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - The Jefferson County commissioners Thursday discussed the possible moving of two county offices.

The board of elections will be moving out of the Courthouse Annex because the commissioners want to demolish the structure for public parking.

Frank Bruzzese, elections board member, said the board of elections needs to be on the first floor of a building because of handicap accessibility and the moving of election machines. Commissioners offered space on an upper floor at the Towers on Market Street, which the commissioners purchased earlier this year, but Bruzzese said there are concerns about getting the 130 voting machines down the elevator. He also said people voting, especially during heavy elections such as a presidential election, would have to take an elevator to the board office.

Bruzzese said there are security concerns about taking the election results up on the elevator because the ballots aren't supposed to be out of sight.

Bruzzese said a solution would be to locate the board of elections in the prosecutor's office on the first floor of the Jefferson County Justice Center. He said the prosecutor's office has too much room and could be moved to other offices, possibly in the Towers.

County Commissioner David Maple said he is against the prosecutor's office renting other office space. He said that is why the commissioners purchased the Towers.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile said the Courthouse Annex is in "deplorable" condition, adding the roof needs to be replaced.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said the information provided by the board of elections will be taken into consideration when making a decision on where to locate the elections board offices.

Graham said today that after considering the proposal to move the board into the justice center, he is against it.

"I think the voters will be against going to the jail to vote," he said. Consolidating the offices to the Towers was one of the reasons the county bought the building, he said. Graham said there will need to be modifications to make the building meet codes, but the county would make the modifications.

"What has to be done has to be done," he said. "I just don't think it would be a good idea" moving the board of elections to the justice center.

Diane Gribble, board of elections director, said the goal is to move the voting machines after the Nov. 5 general elections to the office where the board will eventually be located. She said the board could move out of the annex building by the end of the year.

In a related matter, the county's veterans services commission will be moving into the Towers on Sept. 20.

In other matters, Maple announced the formation of a committee to handle money left in a business revolving loan account. The Community Improvement Corp. was handling the fund, but the CIC was dissolved earlier this year.

The committee will be made up of the city's urban projects director, one representative each from the county commissioners and Steubenville City Council, the county's Regional Planning Commission director, and a banking representative appointed by the rest of the committee.

Commissioners also will be advertising for requests for qualifications for engineering firms to do consulting and engineering work for the county's water and sewer department.

The county currently uses Malcolm Pirnie of Sewickley, Pa.

Gentile said the commissioners every four years advertise for firms. Maple said the process keeps the engineer firm "on their toes." Gentile said the request for engineering firms is no reflection on the current firm's work.

Commissioners also:

- Approved attorney fees for indigent criminal defendants in the amount of $49,265 for August. The county auditor's office reported the attorney fees set aside for municipal court for the year are depleted and common pleas court has one month left. Commissioners will have to allocate more money for the remainder of the year.

- Approved advertising for bids for center-line striping of 214 miles of county roads on behalf of the county engineer's department. The engineer's estimate is $89,850.

- Appointed members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee for a two-year period.

- Were informed by county Engineer James Branagan the specifications for extending the road at the county's industrial park off county Road 43, Wintersville, will be ready for bid in the next couple weeks.

- Appointed Robert DiFonzo of Steubenville as the maintenance supervisor for all county buildings. DiFonzo was the head electrician for Steubenville. He will be paid $15 an hour. There were 30 applicants for the job, and four were interviewed.

- Agreed to hire D&L Unlimited Construction of Wintersville to make repairs to the sidewalk at the front of the county services complex on state Route 43 at a cost of $11,940.

- Agreed to enter into a contract with James White Construction of Weirton in the amount of $109,558 to install sidewalks in Richmond, Adena and Rayland under the county's Community Development Block Grant program.

(Staff writer Paul Giannamore contributed to this report.)

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