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City manager asks for a state audit

February 5, 2014
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - City Manager Tim Boland will negotiate a letter of engagement with the Ohio auditor's office to conduct a performance audit of the city's water and wastewater funds including the delinquent water account collection process.

City Council did not object to Boland's request to continue discussions with the auditor.

Once a letter of engagement is completed Boland will bring the document back to the council for approval.

Article Photos

DISCUSSION — Steubenville Engineer Mike Dolak reviewed a history of Lovers Lane and the maintenance projects on the street Tuesday night during a council service committee meeting. -- Dave Gossett

"I met with representatives from the state auditor's office today. I am now recommending council allow me to proceed with the agreement not to exceed $70,000. The performance audit is expected to last eight to nine months. They will look at efficiencies and make recommendations on how we should proceed. This will give us an opportunity to react. I talked to the auditors about audit us in all areas and that includes the delinquent water accounts, water fund expenditures and income received. My understanding is the audit will go back a sufficient number of years," Boland told council members Tuesday night.

"I would also like to see the money spent on the new water filtration plant on University Boulevard and the new City Hall building included in this audit. I want no doubt left after this is over," 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna told Boland.

Boland later said he decided to ask for the performance audit, "because during the last several weeks people have come to me with concerns. A performance audit can be very helpful. The delinquent water accounts have been a lingering issue. The auditors' recommendations may mean a cost savings and efficiencies for the city," Boland said after the council meeting.

"The city needs to address the issues in a proactive manner. There has been a lot of talk about the delinquent accounts in the community for quite awhile. It is time to address it and put it behind us. This is the best way to resolve the issue," declared Boland.

Second Ward Councilman Mike Johnson welcomed the performance audit, calling it, "a move in the right direction."

"The state auditors have said a performance audit can mean the cost of the audit can be offset by saving of four to 20 times the cost of the audit. I will take that any day," Johnson said.

The idea of a performance auditor by the state auditor's office was raised at a December 2012 council meeting by former City Manager Cathy Davison.

Council's Finance Committee rejected the idea at that time.

In other business Tuesday night, council members listened to a detailed report on future improvements for Lovers Lane and then amended a proposed ordinance allowing for the immediate passage and authorizing the city manager to advertise for professional engineering services for the Lovers Lane and Sunset Boulevard intersection improvement project.

Council voted six to one in favor of making the legislation an emergency.

Johnson opposed the change and said he did not believe it was an emergency.

Villamagna had opposed the emergency status but changed his mind after talking to Dolak.

But Villamagna and Johnson joined 5th Ward Councilman Willie Paul in rejecting emergency status for an ordinance to approve and adopt current replacement pages to the codified ordinances. That ordinance will now be heard on three separate readings.

Council approved the payment of $6,500 to former city employee Janie Foust for the settlement of a case filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A second reading was heard for a mutual aid agreement between the city police department and the Cross Creek Township Police Department.

And, a first reading was heard for legislation authorizing the advertisement for bids for the city's 2014 street resurfacing program.

Council unanimously approved a resolution proclaiming February as National African-American History Month.

Villamagna announced he asked the city manager to explore a microphone system for the council meetings.

Councilman at large Kenny Davis said the Belleview Pool committee is planning a spaghetti fundraiser for March 8.

Boland said he is accepting applications for a recreation director and a finance director.

During the public forum, city resident Joe Scalise questioned council members and administration officials about a frack tank at the city's wastewater plant.

"We need to know what is going on there. I want some answers on what is put into that tank from the Apex Landfill and then into the wastewater plant in case something happens there. The landfill brings in waste from New York and New Jersey," stated Scalise.

According to Wastewater Superintendent Chuck Murphy, "the material from the landfill is being monitored by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Health. I have yet to find an agency that has any concerns. But we continue to monitor the material and the plant 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Scalise also questioned why the landfill's leachate is being treated by the city without a written contract.

City resident Delores Wiggins thanked the council for the resolution for African-American History Month.

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