By Peter H. Milliken
Mahoning County’s Sheriff Jerry Greene and Engineer Patrick T. Ginnetti have made significant changes in their departments and cite many major accomplishments during their first year in office, and they have ambitious goals for the future.
Tuesday is the first anniversary in office for both officials.
Greene succeeded Randall Wellington, and Ginnetti succeeded Richard Marsico. Wellington and Marsico retired at the end of their terms in office.
Greene’s most notable accomplishments were fully reopening the county’s main jail in April for the first time in nearly three years and returning revenue-generating federal inmates to the jail in October for the first time since 2010.
Greene said reopening the final 57 beds in the main jail, whose capacity is 570 inmates, is his most-important accomplishment.
“That probably has the biggest impact on the safety of the community. By expanding the amount of bed space — that’s 57 additional beds — you’re taking 57 criminals off the streets,” Greene said. “It helps every law- enforcement agency, every court and every prosecutor.”
To achieve the full reopening of the main jail, Greene initiated fees for services, ranging from jail-inmate reception to inmate nurse and physician consultations, to arsonist and sex-offender registration to foreclosures. Together, he expects all the new fees to generate about $650,000 in annual revenue.
The inmate fees were opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which said they are burdensome for low-income inmates and their families.
Greene said, however, the fees are collected from inmates’ commissary accounts and that no inmates will be denied medical or nursing services due to inability to pay.
Among other accomplishments in 2013, Greene cites the assignment of a deputy as a resource officer at Western Reserve High School and assignment of deputies to Youngstown’s Violence Interruption Program, to the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force and to teams focusing on highway drug interdiction and crimes against children.
Greene’s future goals include reopening the county’s 96-bed minimum-security jail for overnight use and using about 25 of its beds for intensive alcohol and drug treatment, and using a federal grant to replace the deputies’ outdated firearms.
He also said he is considering billing inmates by the day for the time they spend in jail.
“We have an open-door relationship with Jerry Greene,” said Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti, calling him “very professional” and adding that Greene and his staff have “worked very hard” on finances with Audrey Tillis, county budget director.
She credited Greene with returning federal inmates to the jail and trying, wherever possible, to obtain federal and state grants to relieve the burden on the county’s general fund.
Mahoning County’s engineer cited road improvement as his top achievement.
“My biggest accomplishment that I’m most proud of is the amount of paving we were able to accomplish,” Ginnetti said.
In addition to the repaving of 8.74 miles of roads and surface treatment of 6.56 miles of roads in the county’s regular road-improvement program, three companies in the oil and gas drilling and distribution industries resurfaced an additional 16 miles of roads at the companies’ expense.
Chesapeake Energy repaved two miles of Newton Falls Road, while Halcon Resources Corp. repaved three miles on New Road and Mahoning Avenue combined.
NiSource repaved a total of 11 miles on 10 county roads.
In March, Ginnetti said he re-established the survey department in his office to perform surveys necessary for the design and construction of county improvements and to maintain, restore and replace county survey monuments.
In doing so, he hired Rick Wenzel as survey operations manager and bought a survey vehicle and survey equipment.
The engineer’s department also bought an extended-arm mower for roadside use and a bucket truck to trim high tree branches overhanging roads.
“What we’re trying to do is trim the trees back, clean the ditches, mow further back and get the shoulders repaired. That way, the water gets off the road and doesn’t create additional potholes” during freezing and thawing, Ginnetti explained.
Ginnetti also said he has streamlined and expedited the call-out procedure for snow- and ice-control workers by having one person, rather than multiple people, make all the calls.
Ginnetti said he looks forward to buying a $100,000 asphalt paver for the county’s 2014 paving program.
Greene and Ginnetti said they look forward to the purchase and use in 2014 of portable truck-weighing scales to protect county roads from damage caused by overweight trucks.
Ginnetti has done “an excellent job as county engineer” and has doubled as interim sanitary engineer, Righetti noted.
The county commissioners haven’t named a permanent sanitary engineer since J. Robert Lyden left that post in August 2012 after John A. McNally, then chairman of the county commissioners, asked him to leave.
The sanitary engineer’s office maintains the county’s sanitary sewer system and operates and maintains its sewage treatment plants and supplies drinking water to Craig Beach and Jackson and Milton townships.
“He has double work. He’s there every time we call him,” Righetti said of Ginnetti.