Oct 20, 2022
WARREN — Supply-chain difficulties have wreaked havoc on the Trumbull County Sanitary Engineer’s vehicle fleet.
Sanitary Engineer Gary Newbrough told county commissioners Wednesday that some of his workers have had to use their personal vehicles to perform work for the department, meaning the county has to pay mileage for the work. Newbrough said commissioners had made 10 vehicle purchases since last May, but not one of those vehicles has been delivered.
“We need trucks to tow the heavy equipment, especially to those remote locations. We need four-wheel drive vehicles with winter coming.”
Commissioners on Wednesday authorized the purchase of seven 2023 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickups from Valley Chevrolet in Wellington for the sanitary engineer’s department. The total amount of $271,915 will come from three county accounts and the contract will be through the state purchasing program pricing.
Newbrough said five of these new vehicles will replace a 2007 Dodge Ram that has 197,000 miles; a 2013 GMC Sierra with 166,000 miles and transmission problems; a 2006 GMC Savana van that was sold at auction; a 2013 Dodge Ram Caravan that has 169,000 miles; and a 2007 GMC Canyon with 174,000 miles.
Two of the 1500s will be used by the plant operator and by the survey crew, project engineer and /or GIS coordinator, Newbrough said.
In a separate agenda item, the county board authorized buying two more 2023 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 pickups from the same Wellington dealer totaling $85,390. These two vehicles will replace a 2006 Ford F250 with 136,000 miles and a 2006 GMC Sierra with 68,000 miles with a side floorboard completely rusted through, Newbrough said.
Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said he hopes these purchases will go through.
“We’ll take whatever we can get at this point,” Cantalamessa said.
Also for the sanitary engineer’s office, commissioners signed off on the purchase of a 2023 International Chassis, GapVax Combination truck from MTech of Cleveland at a cost of $514,000 through the state pricing contract. MTech was the best bidder on the equipment with Brown Equipment submitting a $506,459 bid that was rejected.
In another matter, Commissioner Frank Fuda — in referring to a request from local attorney Mark Finamore for W-2 forms of some elected officials and other county department heads, and 1099 tax forms on nonemployee payments from the county — said he is tired of his understaffed office workers “being harassed” with numerous distractions.
Fuda said the distractions include daily harassment, intimidation, cyber-bullying and public records requests. He said the staff also has to withstand disparaging accusations being made on social media.
In an email from the attorney to Commissioner Niki Frenchko, which had been distributed by Fuda, Finamore asked her to forward the names of any employee or county official who is “wrongly failing to honor my legal request” for the tax information. The lawyer then stated an “informational picket” would be held in any of these persons’ homes and the schools attended by their children.
“In my 32 years of public service,” Fuda said, “I have never seen anything like this. This harassment and childish games need to stop.”
In response, Finamore said he didn’t think anyone would take seriously his mention of an informational picket — saying the tactic was more of a joke and a bluff.
“I had been waiting for them to fulfill my request for five months now. I was getting a little impatient, and I wanted to do something to get their attention,” Finamore said. “I was surprised that some of them were offended by this joke. Maybe they will do the right thing and comply with the law.”
A public records request from the newspaper netted a thick file that included a document that links Finamore to a group called Citizens for Better Government, which has a Warren post office box number. Finamore confirmed that this group is his client.
The document lists a request from commissioners office workers of payroll information on the three commissioners, Newbrough, attorneys Matthew J. Blair and Jeffrey V. Goodman and other department heads and officials.
Frenchko, the lone Republican on the board, was absent from Wednesday’s board meeting.
Fuda said at the beginning of 2021, his office had 11 employees, including the three commissioners.
“We are in the latter part of 2022 and amidst all of the apparent dysfunction, this department is functioning with just five employees. We are minus one special projects coordinator and two journal clerks,” Fuda said. “Due to the dedication of the remaining staff, quality work continues to be completed. Even with numerous distractions, these women do what needs done to complete the tasks of each day.”
Fuda said the office staff is also being challenged because of extra work generated by the disbursement of some $38 million in American Rescue Funds that was allocated to the county by the federal government because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a seasoned, hardworking staff that works efficiently together — even through a pandemic two years ago — and kept this county operational throughout,” Fuda said.
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