November 3, 2012
PDT Staff Writer
The City of Portsmouth has been informed that the grant funds held by the state are no longer on hold. In an email to Community Development Director Tracy Shearer, Mary Richards Oakley, Section Supervisor, Economic & Appalachian Development office of Community Development, said she was in the process of drafting a letter as formal notification the city’s grant funds are no longer on hold.
The state began holding funds when it had not received the full repayment of a grant paid the city for work done by Vetter Construction. In October, the Portsmouth City Council voted to pay back the remaining $11,435.73 to the Ohio Community Department of Development in order to keep the flow of grant money to the City of Portsmouth. The payback was requested as the result of a grant the city utilized to pay Jack Vetter (Vetter Construction) for work he performed for the city, which was controversial, and involved a change order. The state told the city they would withhold funds until repayment was made. Earlier, the city had authorized the first part of the payback in the amount of $29,000.
On Oct. 23, one day after the council passed an ordinance to pay back the remaining funds, Portsmouth Mayor David Malone sent a message to Oakley informing her a certified letter confirming passage would be coming to her office. On Oct. 30, Oakley sent a response that a letter would be forthcoming. In her email, Oakley said - “We have processed the FY ’12 CHIP and FY ’12 Formula grant agreements. It is my understanding the CHIP grant agreement is with our Legal Counsel for execution. The Formula grant agreement paperwork has been forwarded to Fiscal. I’m also hopeful it will be sent to the city this week. We are now able to close the FY 2007 Formula grant. The city will receive formal notification of the grant closeout prior to the end of the calendar year.”
The city received another blow when the State Auditor’s Office informed them that the city had to transfer more than $300,000 from the General Fund to various enterprise accounts to pay back charge-offs. Portsmouth City Auditor Trent Williams said the problem had to do with the lack of a definitive formulation for such practices. But at the last meeting of City Council, Williams informed Council the effect of that transfer did not have as large of an effect on the city’s current budget deficit, though it will push back the timeline for getting back to balancing.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org