Engineer refusing to pay bill from commissioners

Wood County Engineer Ray
Huber. (file photo)

County officials are at odds with the engineer’s office over a six-figure bill that has gone unpaid by
the engineer for almost a year.
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

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