Elections panel seeks tech funding

Seneca County Board of Elections Director Karl Erbland and Deputy Director Jim Ehrman asked county commissioners at their Tuesday meeting for a 20 percent increase over the board’s original appropriation for technological training.

Commissioner Jeff Wagner said he was shocked at the request.

“The way I see it, $61,000 is unrealistic. There’s no way I can grant anything close to that, especially when there’s been management problems,” he said.

He said the elections board has deeper issues causing the money issues, specifically the resignations of the former director, both clerks and a board member in the past few months.

Wagner said because of the board’s dysfunction, he did not have confidence in the board’s methodology in arriving at the proposed appropriation increase.

He also said the elections board is not underfunded.

Board President Holly Stacy agreed with Wagner and said board of elections procedures were “far from consistent,” including follow-through on the space issue at the agency’s building.

Wagner also referenced a Putnam County contractor hired by the elections board to train its employees on its technology. He said he knows of someone local who would do the work for free.

Ehrman said it was necessary to hire the contractor because the local person did not have as much knowledge on the board of elections’ technology. While outside trainers typically cost $1,450-$2,000 a day, he said the contractor costs $25 per hour.

Commissioner Fred Zoeller said the contractor was employed until the end of May, resulting in a cost of $3,500.

To hire her until the end of the year for one day a week to train new staff members would cost an additional $4,500, he said.

Also included in the request from the board of elections was $9,000 for other training.

Ehrman said he would like to bring in a company for further technical training, along with attending an Election System Services training seminar in southwest Ohio.

He said typically the training costs $7,000 per person, but this session is being offered for $3,000 per person, plus transportation and room and board.

Ehrman said that by contract, he and Erbland are not allowed to program the ballot computer or ballots because they are not trained to do those things. He said instead, the board must bring in a contractor for $1,450 a day.

In the last election, Ehrman said $13,000 was spent on programming. Although getting them trained would not eliminate the need for the contractor, he said it could significantly cut the cost.

Seneca County Board of Elections member Jim Fruth invited commissioners to the board’s meetings to further inform them on the issues affecting the board of elections. He said commissioners were getting information only from a former elections board employee.

“We have two people in the directorship position now who are absolutely willing to learn the technology to do things that our previous staff members and previous leadership was steadfastly unwilling to do,” he said. “The things they’re asking you to do – to fund their training – will yield great savings to the county by allowing us to do things in-house.”

Erbland called the current board of elections the “best board so far.”

“I look forward to building it up again,” he said.

Zoeller suggested splitting the request into two parts and returning to commissioners with a new request. The request would include technology and training costs, along with figures showing how much the training could save next year, he said.

With the additional information, Zoeller said it would be easier to justify the investment and the cost savings could be backed out of the following year’s budget.

Stacy also asked whether additional costs would be incurred for the part-time contractor with Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio or Workers’ Compensation.

The board of elections is to report back to commissioners.

In other business, commissioners considered an application for an event on Courthouse Square sponsored by The Ritz Theatre. Because the large event is planned for Aug. 11-14 during the day, the board was concerned it would interfere with judicial business.

The request was sent to Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Kelbley. As the administrative judge, he is to decide on the request and forward his recommendation for approval by commissioners.

Zoeller also said soil removed from the commissioners office parking lot was reported to be hazardous. Results are preliminary, but the remaining soil is expected to be clean, Zoeller said.

The board must wait for official results before the project may continue.

Commissioners are to have their quarterly off-site meeting at 7 p.m. July 29 at the Bettsville Village Offices, 308 Emma St.

In new business, the board approved:

A supplemental appropriation of $25,278.45 within the Sheriff’s Community Corrections Grant Fund.

An appropriation adjustment of $18.75 within the Hazardous Materials Fund.

A supplemental appropriation of $4,400 for the General Fund for 2014.

An appropriation adjustment of $245 within the Seneca County Sewer District Fund.

A resolution hiring Molly Maskemetz as an intermittent receptionist for the Seneca County Commissioners through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Summer Youth Employment Program effective July 7.

A resolution hiring Bailey Hickman as an intermittent maintenance worker for the Seneca County Maintenance Department through the TANF Summer Youth Employment Program effective July 7.

Bill vouchers.