Commissioners’ job cut questioned

A heated discussion about eliminating the county administrator position arose during Thursday’s Washington County Commissioners meeting.

The commissioners eliminated the position at a meeting Jan. 13 by not appointing anyone. The change will take effect Feb. 14.

They are removing the position in what they say is an effort to become more active in the duties of the office.

“The commission is just moving in a different direction,” said Ron Feathers, commission president.

Former commissioner Cora Marshall said she had concerns over the removal of the administrator’s position, and asked commissioners what they would do, especially about the budget.

“The budget will still be handled,” Feathers said. “It’s an ongoing development. We feel the commissioners can take a more hands-on approach.”

Commissioner David White added that a plan is not complete and it will take more discussion to come to a decision on what will happen next. Possibilities include hiring a fiscal or budget clerk, or a receptionist to take care of the day-to-day duties.

Administrator Paul Cunningham has been involved in county affairs for 39 years; spending 24 years with the auditor’s office, then 10 years with the sheriff’s office and the last four years with the commissioners.

Cunningham said he feels the position is vital, sharing at the meeting a list of duties, most important of which is getting the budget for the county in line each year.

“This is not about me keeping the position; it’s about keeping the administrator’s position,” he said. “I strongly believe that the county needs an administrator.”

Marshall shared that opinion, saying that commissioners were “taking a step back in time” by not having an administrator.

The commissioners said they believe eliminating an administrator will streamline their duties and processes, but Feathers acknowledged that it “won’t be a painless, seamless transition.”

In the meantime, Cunningham is looking ahead to a new job.

“I’m actively seeking employment,” he said. “I’m not one to sit around; I’m too young to retire.”

Cunningham’s salary as administrator is $53,349.

In other business, bids were opened for a demolition project in Belpre.

Michelle Hyer, development specialist for Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District, opened the bids for the building located at 979 Washington Blvd., near Kroger in Belpre.

“We take the lowest and best quote,” Hyer said, adding that the bids must be reviewed before anyone is awarded the contract for the project.

Bids ranged from $2,490 to $20,050.

Hyer said no completion date had been set at this time, mainly because the contractor chosen could ultimately be working on another job, have multiple jobs lined up or maybe they could even start work right away.

“We try to work with the contractor,” she said.

Because the building contains asbestos the Ohio EPA must be informed seven to 10 days beforehand so debris can be moved.

Hyer said she wasn’t sure if the lower bids contained estimates for special removal of the debris and said it was possible new bids would be taken.

She will contact the EPA and find out special requirements regarding the demolition, she said.

The submitted bids were:

Double E Electric & Construction: $20,050

Tim Graham Excavating, LLC: $2,490

Tom Mayle & Sons Construction, Inc.: $18,500

Ken Strahler Masonry: $17,800

Larry Lang Excavating, Inc.: $8,678