By: James Pruitt
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
Despite an infinitesimal return rate, Fulton County will continue with an area firm charged with collecting court fees from defendants.
The Fulton County Commissioners discussed the matter twice in recent meetings after being asked to cancel the contract. The board instead opted for further discussions.
The board brought in Clerk of the Court Paul MacDonald and Jen Johnson from his office to talk about the contract and the collections agency lack of performance at their meeting April 14.
Commissioner Jeff Rupp said there has been about $3,700 in collections over the last eight months and asked MacDonald and Johnson about the rate of collections when their office was in charge.
Macdonald said there wasn’t any and yet wanted to terminate the contract because the money collected so far doesn’t even amount to 1 percent of the total given to the agency. He has heard from other clerks who have experienced delayed turnarounds from collection to payment.
Johnson talked about problems she has faced with the company and she said if a debtor that has been sent to the collection company calls or comes in to make a payment, she directs them to the collections company. At that time a few have been told that they aren’t even aware of their debt, and another sent a check that was not applied to their account as it was supposed to be, she said.
There is at least $1 million outstanding which also includes restitution and only covers the last five years.
MacDonald’s office sends out 30-, 60-, and 90-day letters of notice and if the matter is not resolved after 120 days, it is sent to the agency.
All efforts he is aware of are used, and after several bid attempts, only two bids were ever received.
MacDonald said the county has done business with this law office in the past so he thought they would be a good fit. The contract is for one year and it is automatically renewed unless a termination notice is delivered in a timely fashion, he said.
Rupp moved to cancel the contract, but neither of two fellow commissioners would second it.
Fighting back against phosphorus in streams
Approved Resolution 2016-312 to execute a letter of support for Farm Bureau Grant and pledge up to $100,000 in matching funds.
The commissioners discussed a plan to allow someone to spray their fields at appropriate times with waters from the wastewater lagoons in Pettisville so as to keep phosphorus out of the streams and ending up in Lake Erie, Commissioner Paul Barnaby stated while current methods are working very well, it is unknown if they will be sufficient in the future and new methods are always in demand.
The grant application comes as water in the county is affected by an algae bloom through the city of Toledo, which provides water for most of the county.
Building issues discussed
The commissioners received an update from the state’s Building Department.
Ohio Building Associate Jeff Eaton told the board his agency has had some very large personnel transitions. As a part of the new structure, early involvement is the focus so as to decrease delays and customer frustrations; he described the new web portal for some inspections and quarterly review processes.
Commissioner Bill Rufenacht asked about distressed, blighted buildings.
“Would the town call the OBD to have the building deemed uninhabitable,” Rufenacht said.
Shannon Himes, superintendent of Industrial Compliance, said they can deem it an imminent risk of harm, however the local authority can go through the condemnation process, so they can help get it started but still mostly falls under the local government.
Rufenacht said with Wood County, if there is an issue and he places a phone call to them, it has been his experience that within 12 hours the issue is resolved.
Eaton said that with the new team and new structure their communication is a lot better than in the past and offered to address any issues that were still existent in the board’s minds from the past.
Snow and ice control not as costly
A mild winter saw the county engineer’s office spend the lowest amount on snow and ice control in the last four years.
A report from Frank Onweller showed the effects of a relatively warmer winter.
Total man-hours worked was 1,406, down from 2,758 in 2014-15 and 5,789 in 2013-14.
Only 1,384 tons of salt were used, the lowest in the four-year period. The department used 2,470 tons in 2013-14.
Crews cleared 21,942 miles of roads, down from 47,580 in 2014-15 and 78,842 in 2013-14.
The cost of salt was down as well at $54,87, nearly half of the cost last year at $95.50
Total cost was $192,627, down from $413,242 in 2014-15 and $647,786 in 2013-14.
Crews’ first day was Nov. 22, 2015 and their last was April 9, 2016. They were called out 19 days for the season (December 1, January 6, February 7).
Impact of State Route 66 change
Commissioners have sent out a letter asking Archbold businesses to tell them how a shift in the route of State Route 66 would impact them. The responses will guide the commissioners on decisions made regarding the highway.
James Pruitt may be reached at