By JIM MAURER
Leah Cole, executive director of Hancock County CASA/GAL, told the county commissioners Thursday afternoon the program which assists children in abuse and neglect situations needs more money.
While the commissioners affirmed the need, they approved a contract with the organization Thursday for the same amount as last year, $19,500 maximum with $7,000 upfront and $350 payment per case.
The commissioners can amend the amount later in the year through a contract change, Commissioner President Tim Bechtol said.
An increase in caseloads for each of the agency’s four paid staff and about 30 volunteers who serve as “advocates” has put the organization in a bind at mid-year, Cole said. For instance, last year at mid-year, Cole said she had three cases, but this year she has 31 cases.
The Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardians-ad-litem program assists children caught in the court system through poor choices by parents or guardians, such as drug abuse.
The United Way of Hancock County reduced the organization’s allocation by 20 percent from $123,600 last year to $98,880 this year. United Way changed its funding allocation system for this year to maintain reserve funds.
“We don’t have the ability to make it through the year,” Cole said without additional funds. “I really can’t cut people.”
She asked for commissioners to reconsider the proposed contract. She asked for an increase to $47,000 with a cap of $50,000.
Commissioner Mark Gazarek suggested a meeting with Juvenile Court Judge Kristen Johnson, the United Way, the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation and CASA/GAL personnel to discuss the funding situation. Commissioner Brian Robertson agreed a meeting would be helpful.
Robertson said the commissioners have received requests from county departments for expenses of more than $1 million over the budgeted amounts. The Department of Jobs and Family Services recently was allocated an $98,000 for housing youngsters outside their residence to protect them.
“What we do is mandated by law,” Cole said. “Each child requires a guardian-ad-litem. What we do is important.”
“We get it, we understand,” Gazarek said. “Your organization should be priority number one. We need to look at other funding sources.”
The opioid crisis has disrupted families and each case involves at least nine different county departments as it proceeds through the courts, he said. Each of the departments need funds to handle the increased load.
While the United Way reduced funding, the agency received about a $44,000 increase from a federal Victims of Crime Act grant. Last year’s grant was for $55,921 and this year it was $99,888.
Earlier Thursday, Courtney Comstock, operations manager at Litter Landing recycling center, gave an update on operations at the site. The reintroduction of accepting glass for recycling isn’t making money yet, but resolves a community desire to have the service, she says.
While the glass doesn’t have to be sorted by residents, Litter Landing personnel are crushing the glass which allows more tons of glass to be transported and increases the amount received for the glass. From April into June, four trips have been made to Rumpke, the Dayton vendor who accepts the glass, with tonnage of material increasing from 8 to 13.6. The county receives $10 per ton and has a fuel cost of $112 to $120 per trip.
A total of 1,661 tires from 300 vehicles were collected during last weekend’s annual event, she said.
A new service, being established at Litter Landing soon, will be acceptance of clothing and textiles for recycling. The Clothes Bin, a franchise company, will place a bin at the East Sandusky Street facility, probably near the electronics recycling bin.
Litter Landing will receive a monthly check from the Bowling Green company, which will pay 7 cents per pound. Items include clothing, outerwear, footwear, undergarments, accessories, handbags and linens. The company will maintain the bin, which will have an electronic sensor monitor.
By recycling unusable items, it keeps the items out of the landfill, where about 85 percent of discarded clothing and textiles are dumped, according to 2012 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency information.
There is no cost, responsibility or liability to the county for the service.