|Engineer refusing to pay bill from commissioners|
|Written by ALEX ASPACHER, Sentinel Staff Writer|
|Friday, 07 March 2014 11:07|
Engineer Ray Huber sent a letter to the commissioners' office Monday indicating he would pay $254,000, or about 75 percent, of a $337,000 invoice sent to the engineer's office March 13, 2013. Huber's letter outlines reasons for deductions to the bill, which is to reimburse the commissioners' office for its annual general fund transfer to fund the engineer's budget.
After the year, Ohio Revised Code requires commissioners to bill the engineer for two-thirds of all costs related to road and bridge construction.
Generally, Huber opposes some of the charges because he doesn't believe the commissioners' office has shown enough of a connection to road and bridge work for items like telephones, Internet and maintenance to the county highway garage. Huber's references to a "sufficient nexus" between the two stem from a 2011 opinion he sought from the Wood County Prosecutor's Office on what he can and can't pay back to commissioners with motor vehicle licensing and fuel tax money, as set by the state code. The prosecutor's office provides legal counsel for both offices.
Huber said he will pay for items if they're proven to be part of road and bridge work, but he said there hasn't been enough evidence shown to make the connection.
"If you can demonstrate there's a 'significant nexus' to roads and bridges, then I'm obligated," Huber said this week. "I could not in clear conscience" pay without that being shown, he said.
"I would be remiss in the discharge of my duties as county engineer," he continued. "I want to get an honest and accurate breakdown of what I'm being charged for."
Huber said he's been asked to pay the bill in past years without much explanation.
"I'm tired of being pushed around."
Administrators in the commissioners' office say they've met with Huber and his staff several times over the last year and have sought to provide as much clarification as is necessary. Some of the items are inaccurate because the administrators weren't made aware of staffing changes in the engineer's office, on which the charges are based, they said.
"We'll figure that out and we're not going to charge him for that overage, but that's not our role to handle the personnel in his office. That's their role," said County Administrator Andrew Kalmar.
The bills have been disputed in the past, but "not to this extent," said Darcy Wilhelm, fiscal manager for the commissioners' office.
"There have always been questions about it, as to what's covered and what's not and what can be included," Kalmar said. "So we've always made great effort to sit down with the engineer or staff in his office and go through them."
Kalmar said those meetings occurred several times in 2013 with some line items being resolved before he started making calls to the engineer's office asking for payment before the end of the year.
"It's just a long, drawn out process. We think it could be done in a day," Kalmar said.
In an interview this week, Kalmar, Wilhelm and Joe Fawcett, assistant county administrator, maintained that most the charges Huber deducted, which include repairs to the boiler, roof, garage door and drinking fountain at the highway garage, are indeed a part of road and bridge work.
"If you take, for example, he deducted repairs to the highway garage - well what's the purpose of the highway garage?" Kalmar said.
"Some of these figures, he does make a valid point, and we do need to cut out the ambiguity and make it more clear," Fawcett said. "That's not a problem, we'll fix that. The only issue I'd say we have is that he deducted out the entire amount, as opposed to what is probably more appropriate, a portion of (that amount)."
"That's not really a reasonable resolution" to deduct the entire figure, Kalmar said, acknowledging they'll meet with Huber again with eyes on coming to an agreement.
"We don't want a fight or disagreement with the engineer's office," he said. "We think we can come to a resolution, and from our standpoint, we think we're really close to that resolution. We don't really care for the response that we just got (Monday) in the form of that letter."
"The letter is frustrating because I keep trying to reach out to get the questions answered and to work with their office, and to me, it's met with a continuous push-back or resistance," said Fawcett.
|Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 12:00|
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