GALLIPOLIS — Gallia Commissioners Thursday voted two to one to approve financing measures for the Gallia Engineer’s Office to purchase four new trucks for roadwork and winter preparation in the coming fall.
According to Gallia Engineer Brett Boothe, he seeks to finance four Western Star trucks from a state of Ohio purchasing contract at just over $690,000 and to finance them over a period of five years at 1.1767 percent from US Bank utilizing engineer road and bridge funds. The vehicles are anticipated to arrive at the engineer’s office in November.
Both Gallia Commissioners Harold Montgomery and Brent Saunders approved the measure whereas Commissioner David Smith voted against it.
“My concern is equipment, we’ve got to have it for snow and ice and right now we’re down four trucks going into winter,” said Boothe. “I’ve got 14 snow and ice routes. If we’re going to provide the level of service that people in Gallia County are accustomed to, we’ve got to be able to treat roads with salt. We’ve got to plow them out and we’ve got to maintain emergency services so people can get to work and kids can get to school. We’re trying to do the best we can with what we have. It’s tough for everybody.”
Boothe said he felt his office was in “good shape” to pay financing obligations. Montgomery asked Boothe whether the engineer felt he could pay for the trucks “outright” and Boothe replied that he didn’t think he would be able to pay for them upfront due to county paving obligations. The engineer emphasized that the trucks were “critical” to the county’s operation. He said that his office would be able to afford financing the trucks.
Smith indicated that he felt the Gallia Engineer’s Office owed the Gallia general fund around $140,000 for reportedly not paying casualty liability insurance for the last few years, which, Smith said, had been historically paid by the engineer’s office.
“If every department did these things or did that, it would not be too long before we would have a problem providing those services you just discussed from your perspective,” said Smith. “Again, I’ve always said as a commissioner my job is to represent every person and to try and fund every department best we can.”
“This is the third week you’ve been in here,” continued Smith while addressing Boothe. “Again, it is my position, you say you have the money that’s why I bring these other things up. You’ve had the money to pay this insurance but you’ve chosen not to. As we’ve pointed out to you when you’ve been in here before, if you would choose not to pay this, it would fall back to the general fund’s responsibilities. As I’ve said the last several weeks, I am anticipating a major financial crunch (due to COVID-19 economic concerns). I’m trying to look out and provide the best services for everyone we can. With that said, I cannot support allowing you to finance this. We’ve checked it, there’s no way we can force you to pay it, so I would have to be against this.”
Boothe rebutted Smith’s statements by saying that there had been engineers before him who had not paid CORSA liability insurance and that there were state legal opinions saying that engineer offices were not required to do so but may. He indicated it was the county’s legal responsibility to pay liability insurance.
Smith said that were the engineer’s office to fail to pay for the trucks, that it would fall back onto the county general fund to pay.
“My only comment here, I do see where you have the ability I think to pay (for the trucks), if it’s your top priority,” said Montgomery. “It all comes down to priorities.”
The vote was taken after discussion.
Dean Wright is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at 740-446-2342.