Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Commissioners start year with a bang

Left to right: President Diane Delaplane, Commissioner Mike Rhoades and Commissioner Mike Stegall

Commissioners start year with a bang
By Bob Robinson

Something old, something new…
It’s not a bride preparing for her wedding day; it’s the first day out in 2011 for the new Darke County Commissioners.
Something new? Recently elected Darke County Commissioner Mike Stegall takes his seat, replacing retired 5-term Commissioner Terry Haworth.
Something new? Commissioner and 2011 President Diane Delaplane started the meeting with Prayer/Moment of Silence and a Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
Something old? Another conflict with Darke County Common Pleas Judge Jon Hein.
What started as a brief meeting on Monday with only two items on the agenda, turned into a discussion of a recent request by Hein to expand his and Darke County Prosecutor Kelly Ormsby’s 2011 Budgets because of the Commissioners’ decision last February to fund two drug enforcement officers for Darke County Sheriff Toby Spencer.
In a prepared statement by Rhoades, Hein reportedly told the commissioners that allowing the increase in the Sheriff’s budget while asking other department heads to flat-line their budgets was “unfair.”
As a result, Hein asked for an additional $57,000 to hire a new Probation Officer and give his staff a 2 percent raise.
Commissioners countered that several local police departments had approached them, advising them that the drug problem in the county was “out of control.” They determined that $80,000 from unused Worker’s Compensation funds could be used to “help support the hiring of the much needed officers.”
They also said there is no money available for across-the-line budget increases for the other departments.
Rhoades said that Hein led them to believe his request was supported by the department heads but noted that later phone discussions didn’t support that.
“There were only a few that agreed with him,” Rhoades said. He declined, however, to say which ones.
Commissioners said one of their primary responsibilities was the safety of the residents of the county, noting that they believed they made the right decision and “would do it again.”
They said they understood the possible increased workload that the Prosecutor’s Office and Common Pleas could face in 2011, adding that if and when that happened they would address it.
They also noted the challenges faced by the Sheriff’s Department.
Rhoades said that with the new year, Sheriff’s Deputies had to deal with five domestic calls inside of an hour, two of them involving firearms.
“With three deputies on the road, two more had to be called in. It’s impossible to anticipate the overtime that the Sheriff will have to pay in 2011,” he said. He added however, that Spencer told them he would deal with whatever they decided, even if it meant losing the funding that paid for the new deputies.
Speaking for the commissioners, including Stegall who was just taking his seat for the first time on Monday, Rhoades said they would do what had to be done, and requested that the public provide its opinion on the situation.
This is not the first time county commissioners have crossed swords with Hein. In 2003, Hein issued a court order requiring commissioners to agree to pay raises for Public Defenders serving in his court.
The two items on Monday’s agenda were reauthorization of an IV-D Contract for $15,478.63 between the Darke County Child Enforcement Agency and the Darke County Juvenile Court, and a Public Notice fixing the date – Jan. 19 – for sealed bids on a utility truck and two tractors from the County Engineer.
Commissioners noted they would be dealing with the 2011 Budget on Wednesday.

In case you missed it, the written request for public input from the commissioners is posted at:

Bob Robinson is the retired editor of The Daily Advocate, Greenville, Ohio. If you wish to receive a daily notification of his comments, opinions and reports, send your email address to: opinionsbybob@gmail.com. Feel free to express your views.

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