STEUBENVILLE - One Jefferson County commissioner on Thursday proposed a county budget that brings back eight jailers at the county jail on a part-time basis and still leaves a $400,000 surplus.
Commissioners have been working on the 2011 budget for the past couple months and are nearly done. Commissioners haven't made a final decision on the funding of several departments, including the jail.
County Commissioner Thomas Graham said he proposes giving the jail $250,000 in additional funding to bring back eight laid-off jailers who will work up to 30 hours a week without benefits.
County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said that will allow him to increase the prisoner population from 50 to about 80. Local police agencies have been taking people arrested to the county jail, only to see them released because of a lack of space.
"It is important to keep criminals off the street as much as possible," Graham said.
The commissioner said he is in favor of keeping a $400,000 surplus in the budget because of an uncertainty in state funding because of the state's budget problems.
The commissioners also discussed the county taking over Jefferson Lake State Park.
The state announced the park would be allowed to become a nature preserve, and the commissioners have been pushing to keep the park open, possibly as a county park.
Commissioners said they still are waiting for word from the state about the transfer because of the change in state administration.
The commissioners also said they are "troubled" by comments from residents about concerns over the proposal to selectively harvest trees at the 954-acre park as a way to generate money to operate the park.
County Commissioner David Maple said some residents have been telling the commissioners about negative impacts to the park with timbering and possible gas drilling. Maple said that could be a revenue source but he believes keeping the park open and revenue sources don't "necessarily have to go together."
"I won't support activities at the park that takes away from the fine asset that it is now," he said.
County Commissioner Tom Gentile said any timbering at the park would be done with input from the state forestry department and the Jefferson County Water and Soil Conservation District, which operates a master logger program for proper timbering activities. Gentile said there has been no discussion with any company about drilling for gas at the park.
Toronto resident Robert Steve Vukelic told the commissioners in public participation to pressure Gov. John Kasich to reopen the park as a state facility.
Commissioners also announced the county will continue a 10 percent discount on water rates for another month.
Commissioners also were invited to meet with Steubenville City Council to discuss the Pottery Addition sewer project, development of a countywide port authority and other ongoing collaborative efforts between the city and county. The meeting is tentatively set for March 8.
Commissioners also approved a new table of organization for the county water and sewer department to add an operations supervisor overseeing water and sewer divisions.
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