Commissioners, children services board to discuss merger with JFS

Published: Thu, May 16, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken


The proposed merger of Mahoning County Children Services with the county’s Department of Job and Family Services will be the main topic when county commissioners attend a special meeting of the Children Services board at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Commissioners unanimously declared last week their intention to designate JFS the county’s public Children Services agency, but did not take final action on the merger of the child-welfare agency with JFS.

The current 13-member Children Services governing board likely would be replaced with a five-member advisory board, said Commissioner Chairwoman Carol Rimedio-Righetti.

Whatever they end up doing, the commissioners will not act impulsively, Righetti said. “We’re going to take our time with this.”

At this week’s CSB meeting, Dave Arnold, interim executive director, said the agency’s financial position is “not very good” because it is spending substantially more money than it is receiving. CSB had a $1.2 million deficit last year, reducing its carry-over to about $3 million.

Righetti said merging the agencies could help alleviate that financial plight as costs are reduced through shared administration, legal, clerical and fiscal management services.

“There’s no conflict,” said the Rev. Lewis Macklin, CSB chairman. “Everything is cordial ... we are looking for the best opportunities to ensure that child welfare remains the priority.”

Righetti said the commissioners, who had asked CSB to suspend its search for a new executive director, have authorized the search to resume. Five finalists remain to replace Denise Stewart, who retired Jan. 1. Righetti said Children Services will remain in its current downtown building because it is designed and built for CSB, with designated rooms for supervised visits between parents and children.

Righetti also said she would like to lease the vacant second floor to a nonprofit agency. That floor has been vacant since the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation downsized two years ago and moved into the adjoining Voinovich Government Center.

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