MOUNT VERNON — Knox County no longer has a law library in the sense of a large room full of thousands of law books set aside specially for legal research. But, like all counties, it maintains the function of having a publicly accessible research point by maintaining the Law Library Board, which arranges things to make this possible.
The current facility is a room in the county building with some law books and digital data research capabilities. Board member Mark A. Zanghi met with the board of commissioners and Auditor Jonette Curry to propose a budget for 2010 which reflects the recent economy.
Zanghi said that in 2008, the law library board received $49,438 in revenue from penal fines and traffic fines in Knox County, as designated by state law. Due to the economy, he said, those revenues dropped steeply in 2009, currently being down around 30 percent, with two months to go in 2009.
This shortfall has caused the law library to fall behind in its payments to LexisNexis, an electronic data company that provides access to legal research databases for $3,600 a month. Zanghi said the board has found another supplier for data access, Westlaw, which is offering service for $2,267 per month, with the first payment starting one month after service begins.
In the proposed 2010 budget, the payments to Westlaw for access would make up the primary expense, at $27,204. An estimated $750 is included for a new computer capable of handling large data files. As the state mandates keeping some sort of law librarian to assist users, $1,200 is allotted for that, $600 for one year’s rent of the room in the county building, $3,400 for new books and updates to existing books, and $150 for supplies.
Zanghi also included $680 in the budget for the Statewide Consortium of County Law Library Resources Boards Fund Assessment, which is a mandated charge equal to 2 percent of the county law library’s annual fine revenue. After discussion with the commissioners, it was discovered this fee does not start until 2011.
The $680, as well as any other income going over these expenditures, would be applied to the outstanding balance owed to LexisNexis.
Zanghi asked if there was any way the county can help the law library get this reorganization kicked off by advancing it this year’s budget in two installments, which the law library would then pay back.
“How would you handle that if those revenues don’t come in?” asked Curry.
Zanghi said some sort of contractual agreement would have to be established.
All agreed that some follow-up research will be necessary to see if this would be practical, or even allowed.
In other business, Ron Simpson, superintendent of the Knox County Water and Wastewater Department, updated the commissioners on current projects, beginning with the Reserves Project, a 60-acre housing development within Apple Valley. It is unrelated to the Apple Valley association itself. Simpson brought a revised contract for the commissioners to examine. They liked and agreed with the contract, but will wait until the Regional Planning Commission can review the project before approving it.
Simpson also asked the commissioners to make sewer tap fees the same as water tap fees, as the wastewater taps require the use of more materials, even though they are less time consuming.
For the emergency replacement of an 18-inch sewer pipe crossing Apple Valley Lake under water, the commissioners are still attempting to reach the Ohio Public Works Commission to see if they can appeal the OPWC’s rejection of the county’s plea for emergency funding assistance. Meanwhile, work is being prepared to fix the line.
The hamlets’ wastewater project was also briefly examined when Simpson asked about the status of grants. The commissioners said the feedback they were getting makes it appear that stimulus projects are getting precedence over other projects at this point.
Matthew Kurtz also stopped by for his first meeting with the commissioners as interim director of the Knox County Job & Family Services. Kurtz became director after the retirement last week of Roger Shooter.
“We’re not going to make any huge changes,” Kurtz said, citing Shooter as a mentor. “We hope to continue in the same direction, in the same spirit.”
Kurtz said that at this time last year, the DJFS was under the gun from severe state cuts. He said that at the moment, it looks as if that situation has stabilized, and that state revenues are on track for no additional cuts. He said they were hoping the recent leveling off of unemployment figures will result in a leveling off of the amount of patrons DJFS sees every month.