Wood County officials conduct special session on budget proposals

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners continue meeting with county officials and department heads on 2013-2014 budget requests.

On the agenda for Friday’s special budget session were information technology specialist Chris Whitaker, county maintenance superintendent Melvin Swiger and Wood County Community Corrections Day Report Center director Dennie Huggins.

The commissioners are scheduled to meet at 10:30 a.m. Monday with Sheriff Ken Merritt; Prosecutor Jason Wharton at 10:45 a.m.; Circuit Clerk Carole Jones at 11 a.m. and Jodi Smith and with West Virginia University Extension Office at 11:15 a.m. on their budget proposals.

The county budget is due in Charleston March 28 for review. The county fiscal year is July 1 to June 30.

Huggins’ budget for the day report center is basically funded through grants, client fees and drug lab screening revenues. The only part of the DRC budget listed in the general county budget is salaries. Huggins told commissioners Friday he is asking for $20,000 in extra help to provide an additional part-time employee who would be available three days monthly to act as supervisor for community service work performed by DRC clients.

“We need to be doing more community service. If I can get someone in there for extra help, then I can put the crew out on the road and get these cleanup projects and other community service done. Sometimes we run into clean-up jobs that turn into something a lot larger than we anticipated and we can’t get it done in one session. We are getting multiple requests for community service. In order for us to get our grant, we need this position so we can get the hours needed for community service. They have fallen short on that in the past,” Huggins said.

“We are picking up constant requests, and we have a van to transport the clients for the community service jobs, but they have to have a supervisor,” Huggins said. Community service sites can also provide their own supervisor.

“We are going to be doing some work at the airport, and we also have plans to clean up some of the graffiti in town,” Huggins said. “There is a tremendous need for this in the community.”

“I don’t know if we can find that kind of money in our budget,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.

“We would only use funds as they are needed. We are not going to spend it unless we have clients ready to go out on the job,” Huggins said.

“It’s a wonderful program and hopefully they (the clients) are also learning about how to operate appropriately in society,” Dunn said.

“The average person probably doesn’t even know what the day report center or what we do there, but this program is saving the county a tremendous amount of money on regional jail bills,” Huggins said.

Huggins told the commissioners the program is expanding and he has already instituted some changes, including providing life skills classes for clients.

Whitaker said his budget request is basically the same as last year. The total data processing budget was $80,000 last year, the request for this year is the same. This does not include the salary for Whitaker, which is $37,000, and another full-time IT assistant, who is being paid $25,000. Their salaries are in a separate line item.

Swiger said his department may need to replace a $10,000 piece of mowing equipment this year, otherwise the budget was the same as last year.

Currently a county maintenance worker spends part of his time providing in-house maintenance, minor repairs on the county’s 75 vehicles.

The total maintenance department budget for last year was $388,332, and this year’s is basically the same.