County releasing fees in tax-exempt case

Warren County taxpayers have spent $9,700 for forensic accounting in the county’s tax exempt legal battle.

Forensic accountants were engaged by John Cambest, solicitor for the board of appeals, and contracted by the county, Fiscal Director Toby Rohlin told the commissioners during their Wednesday morning meeting.

“The total bill at this point is $9,700, is that the total bill or do we have some more coming?” asked Commissioner John Bortz.

“There could be more,” said Rohlin. “There are two invoices we’ve received from them so far.”

“This is the first payment,” said Commissioner John Eggleston.

Bortz also asked for the total paid to Cambest, the solicitor for the Warren County Tax Appeals Board.

Rohlin said he would provide the figures to the commissioners.

“I would appreciate having those numbers because we have spent no small amount of money on this, and I’d like to know what the taxpayers of Warren County are going to be getting into when this is all said and done,” Bortz said. “In my conversations with other folks that are involved with this the Rouse, the hospital there’s a lot of money flying within and throughout Warren County relative to this issue.”

“We can find out easily enough what we paid them so far, what their future activities are going to encompass. I wouldn’t have a clue,” said Rohlin.

A $29,830 bid by Innovative Construction and Mech (ICM) for work at the Faith Inn was also approved by the commissioners.

The project will include maintenance or installation including painting of the fire escape, wall repairs in two apartments, kitchen range vents in six apartments, replacement of carpet with vinyl tile in 14 locations, new kitchen cabinets and counters in one apartment, lower level soffit and lights and painting and door repair at the entryway and downspout work for the transitional housing facility for the homeless.

Lorri Dunlap said project is funded by emergency solution funds through the state to Economic Opportunity Council and was set to expire on Nov. 30.

An agreement with Cambria County Juvenile Detention/Emergency Shelter was also approved at a rate of $225 per day for an individual placed there by probation in August.

The center was not on the original list of approved providers, Commissioner Chairman Stephen Vanco said.

“We find ourselves in this situation, gentleman, where we’re retroactively approving something, at some point when the auditors down state take a look at our books and to make sure our T’s are crossed and our I’s are dotted. This is just the type of thing that lends itself to potential exposure.”

Bortz said the county is reimbursed by the commonwealth for Children and Youth Services at approximately 80 percent, “provided we are keeping our T’s crossed and I’s dotted.”

If an auditor saw the county had placed an individual in a center that did not have an existing contract in place, the expenses could be found to be ineligible, he said.

“Will we have to repay that back, I don’t know, but at the end of the day it does potentially expose Warren County,” Bortz said. “And I’m not pointing my fingers at the courts, this is the type of thing we see over and over again…let’s hope in some way the Commonwealth will not expose us to anything financially adverse.”

Vanco said the commissioners have addressed the issue with probation and the courts.

Eggleston said the state licenses the facilities and “if we send somebody to a unlicensed facility, I understand that…if we’re sending our children or adults for that matter to a licensed facility approved for operation this shouldn’t even be a question.”

An agreement with CGI Communications to produce videos about Warren County at no cost that are linked to the National Association of Counties website was also approved.

“Several years ago we were contacted by this company, CGI Communications, what they agreed to do was come in and put videos on our website about Warren County and they would be linked to the National Association of Counties website so that anybody that contacted NACO or Warren County could see these videos,” Eggleston said. “It doesn’t cost us anything. The way they pay for this, they get businesses to pay them and they do a video about the business and they are linked to them…now it’s time to renew and they’re going to come in and make new videos.”

The commissioners also approved proclamations for November as National Adoption Month and Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11.

“I know we have some terrific foster and adoptive parents in Warren County, and we could always use more,” Eggleston said.