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Outside study would bring unneeded cost

Trumbull County commissioners should not be so quick to call in consultants to inspect operations in the Sanitary Engineer’s office.

This is the same board of commissioners that in 2015 voted unanimously to appoint the county’s elected highway Engineer Randy Smith to the position of Trumbull County sanitary engineer. As county highway engineer, Smith is elected to office, while the sanitary engineer is appointed by commissioners.

We were assured in 2015 that commissioners had not entered into this decision lightly, but that they had done their homework, researching carefully the concept, including meeting with officials in other Ohio counties that had successfully combined the positions.

We were assured that combining the positions would save taxpayer funds by eliminating duplication in the two departments and improving operating efficiency.

Now five years later, Commissioners Frank Fuda and Mauro Cantalamessa say they aren’t so sure having Smith at the helm of both departments is the right setup.

Earlier this month, Fuda said the positions of highway and sanitary engineer are two unique, full-time positions.

Cantalamessa referred to communication challenges and said differences in ideologies are affecting work productivity.

Based on a recent letter penned by Gary Newbrough, deputy sanitary engineer, personnel disputes are triggering problems in the department that must be brought under control. Differing management styles and personality conflicts seem to be at the heart of the problem.

In his letter to commissioners, Newbrough criticized Smith’s sanitary engineer knowledge, management style and even the time he spends in the office.

Although the combination of the duties was meant to save money and resources with joint operations, it hasn’t, Newbrough stated in the letter.

“It has since been revealed the two departments cannot engage in any meaningful joint operations since they are financed through two entirely different funding sources,” the letter states.

Smith defended his management style and said it was inappropriate for Newbrough to write the letter. He also accused others, including the sanitary engineer department’s attorney, of orchestrating a protest about him. As a result of the letter, he called for Newbrough’s demotion and the firing of the attorney.

If savings promised five years ago did not develop, and the office’s efficiency is faltering, then it’s time to re-examine the operation. Politics and personalities never should cause so much strife in office management.

Now Fuda and Cantalamessa are exploring hiring a consultant to review the situation for an estimated cost of around $19,000. Commissioner Dan Polivka said he would support a work study on the department’s staffing. Polivka has been reluctant to speak out until he has more information.

We think such a study would be a waste of time and money.

Commissioners must take responsibility for their actions that merged department oversight and also for operations that fall under their supervision. They must not be so quick to pass the buck to an outside consultant.

Commissioners should stand up for what they think is right and take responsibility for handling the situation on their own. That’s what they are elected to do.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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