LAWRENCE COUNTY Commissioners head to court to get bills paid

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Lawrence County commissioners are taking the county controller to court to get some county bills paid.
Commissioner Roger DeCarbo said the county owes accounting firm Maher Duessel of Pittsburgh about $30,000 in unpaid fees for work it did for the county mental health mental retardation department. Some bills date to August, he noted.
Commissioners said they have not received any explanation from Controller Mary Ann Reiter as to why the bills haven't been paid.
Reiter, who was contacted after the meeting, said the unpaid bills first came to her when there wasn't enough money in the MH/MR budget to pay for them. They were later sent to her with the wrong account numbers after the county had changed to a new accounting system, she said.
Reiter said some of the bills are in the process of being paid.
County solicitor John Hodge said he will file a petition in common pleas court designed to get Reiter to pay the bills. A hearing will likely be held to determine why Reiter hasn't paid the bills and if the court should issue an order forcing them to be paid.
Also on agenda: In other business, county commissioners approved a 3-percent room tax on all hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, cabins and cottages in the county. Money generated from the tax will go to the Lawrence County Tourist Promotion Agency. It's expected to generate about $60,000 per year.
"It's very important to us in promoting the county and it's going to go along way in promoting the area," said JoAnn McBride, director of the Lawrence County TPA.
The county tourist promotion agency must use the money to promote more tourism in the county, particularly overnight stays. The county is able to institute the tax after the state Legislature and governor approved a bill designed to bring more tourism in the county by funding agencies such as the TPA.
McBride has said that her agency has suffered in the past because of a lack of money and recently agreed to take a $15,000 cut in county funding because commissioners needed it to balance this year's budget.
The room tax will go into effect Feb. 15.

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