Meeting Release

Post-meeting release 2/6

Commissioners review 2019, look ahead to 2020 during Thursday meeting
Also increase indigent defense counsel hourly rate for the first time since 2014

[Tiffin, OH Feb. 6, 2020] – The Seneca County Board of Commissioners spent time Thursday evening reflecting on the accomplishments and themes of 2019 and looked ahead to the rest of 2020.
Seneca County Public Relations Coordinator Jimmy Flint worked with the commissioners to give a PowerPoint presentation to those in attendance. The presentation represents a written report Flint has prepared as a recap of last year. You can view the PowerPoint in its entirety here. The written report will be available on the county’s website later this month. This report includes many quotes from each commissioner, giving their perspective on events that occurred last year.
The report touches on eight major themes that defined 2019, including fiscal responsibility, personnel changes, infrastructure upgrades, a renewed commitment to economic development and continuing to promote transparency and accessibility.
At the end of the report, the commissioners also discussed what to expect for 2020. This portion of the report included a discussion about the “Three C’s” — which are continuity, collaboration and communication. The continuity theme was mentioned because the proper people and systems are in place, making it so the commissioners do not need to reinvent the wheel. Collaboration is mentioned because although the board may not be able to make direct policy decisions to effect change, it can work with community partners to find solutions to issues in the county. The communication aspect is a function of the commissioners to act as a bridge between institutions, agencies and people to make positive change occur.
In other action, the commissioners agreed to increase the hourly rate for indigent defense counsel for the first time since 2014.
Indigent defense provides services to defendants who cannot afford legal counsel on their own.
The commissioners increased the rate from $55 an hour for in-court work and $45 for out-of-court work, to $60 an hour for both.
Two years ago, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio made increasing indigent defense funding its top legislative priority for the FY2020/2021 state budget. Seneca County supported this. This led to an additional $154 million in the state budget for indigent defense reimbursement to counties.
Although people were receiving fair legal representation before, the commissioners believe making the change will continue to ensure that the Constitutional rights of constituents are preserved.
“This is the culmination of two years’ worth of effort working with our state association and the Ohio legislature to increase funding for indigent defense,” Commissioner Shayne Thomas said. “Our obligation is to continue to support a citizen’s right to a fair trial. This move will allow us to have a healthy legal community into the future. In an effort to reduce regulatory burden, we will make in court and out of court charges the same and value the work of our attorneys consistently.”
Before the commissioners decided Thursday, Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Shuff recommended on behalf of all county judges that the commissioners adopt the $60 hourly rate.
Rough estimates calculated by commissioners’ office staff show that even with the increase in the hourly rate, because of the state’s increased financial commitment, the county’s spending should be less than it was in 2019, 2018 and 2017.
During new business, the board approved:
* 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.