Commissioners to reconsider purchase limits

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners will soon revisit the recently lowered purchasing limit after hearing about some of its unintended consequences Thursday.

Commissioners in June approved decreasing the level below which purchases can be made without commission approval from $5,000 to $1,500 as a way to monitor purchases more closely. County administrator Mart Seufer said part of the rationale was to prevent some offices from “cleaning out” their budgets at the end of the fiscal year.

But after the new policy went into effect July 1, Seufer and County Clerk Mark Rhodes said more items than expected have been flagged because of the new rule, resulting in delays and extra paperwork.

“We’re hitting it every day,” Seufer said. “I think this was an end-of-the-year, knee-jerk reaction to slowing down purchases. I don’t see any advantage to it.”

Rhodes said utility bills and other expenses – like the $2,500 allocated from hotel-motel tax revenue to The Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half-Marathon – have been held up because they eclipsed the $1,500 threshold and needed commissioner approval before moving forward.

Seufer said none of the purchases referred to the commission by the new limit raised any red flags with him as an unnecessary or questionable expense.

“I haven’t seen one thing like that,” he said.

Commission President Wayne Dunn said the goal of changing the county’s purchase procedures in 2013, including establishing the $5,000 limit, was “to improve efficiency and operations.

“It sounds like we’re losing more than we’re gaining by doing that,” he said.

In other business, Dunn and Commissioner Steve Gainer discussed a proposed community service coordinator position to organize volunteer assistance through county entities like the Day Report Center and probation department as well as churches and other volunteer groups. Commissioner Blair Couch, who had suggested creating the job, was absent.

Gainer questioned why such a job is needed and how expensive it would be to establish.

“I guarantee it will cost us money to create this position,” he said.

Dunn said it’s possible the job could be done by an existing organization, meaning the commission would need to contribute little or no money.

“That’s why I want to develop this thing and see whether it looks like it will work,” he said. “If it costs very much, then I agree, we can’t do it, under our current conditions.”