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Seneca County Commissioners to give outlook for 2020, hear from local judges at Thursday meeting

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From left: Commissioners Mike Kerschner, Shayne Thomas, and Anthony Paradiso

TIFFIN — The Seneca County Board of Commissioners is to meet at 4 p.m. Thursday at its office, 111 Madison St.

During new business, the commissioners are to reflect on 2019 by presenting their year in review PowerPoint. The report is comprised of several sections based on themes that defined last year.

These themes include fiscal responsibility, personnel changes, infrastructure upgrades, a renewed commitment to economic development and continuing to promote transparency and accessibility.

The presentation will include reflection on the biggest accomplishments and challenges of 2019. The board also will discuss what is expected in 2020. This includes a focus on continuity, collaboration and communication. The board is to release an online written report that encapsulates the 2019 year in review this month.

In other business, the board is to discuss potential changes to the fee structure for indigent defense cases. Indigent defense provides services to defendants who cannot afford legal counsel on their own.

The fiscal year 2020 and 2021 state budget included an additional $154 million to increase the state reimbursement to counties for indigent defense.

This came after requests from the commissioners, other counties and the County Commissioners Association of Ohio. In 2017, the state reimbursed about 44.5 percent of indigent defense costs to Seneca County, while that rate fell to 42.1 percent in 2018. With the state’s new financial commitment, estimates for the reimbursement rate during fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020) is 70 percent, while the estimates for the fiscal year 2021 (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021) is approaching 90 percent.

Currently, the hourly rate for attorneys who take indigent defense cases in Seneca County is typically $45 for out-of-court work and $55 for in-court work. Several counties in Ohio have increased their rates in response to the increased commitment from the state.

During Thursday’s meeting, several local judges have been invited to discuss these rates and the commissioners are expected to consider making changes to the current structure.

Also to be considered are the county’s fee caps for specific types of cases. Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Shuff is also expected to address the board related to outside signage at the Seneca County Justice Center. Since the building’s planning and construction, a committee has been working on ways to improve the signage. Shuff is to update the board on these efforts.

In other action, the board is to discuss the Airport Capital Improvement Program.

During new business, the board is to consider:

  • A $15,000 supplemental appropriation to the Ditch Maintenance Fund for equipment.
  • A $21,692.68 supplemental appropriation to the Capital Improvement Fund in the transfers out line (Seneca County Opportunity Center).
  • Authorizing the disposal of unneeded, obsolete or unfit county-owned property, two-2017 John Deere tractors on behalf of the engineer’s office.
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