Last updated: September 06. 2013 3:54PM - 27 Views

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Staff Writer

After a bit of a false start last week, Delaware County commissioners appear to have settled on a company to perform title searches as part of the Moving Ohio Forward Grant.

In a 2-0 vote Thursday, commissioners approved a contract worth up to $25,000 with Lawyers Title Agency of Delaware.

Commissioner Ken O’Brien, who grilled Delaware County Economic Development Director Gus Comstock on his involvement in seeking quotes for the contract, abstained from the vote.

“I have a continued concern, not with the firm that is being recommended, but with the process,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien repeatedly questioned Comstock on whether or not he recommended to the third-party administrator of the program the two companies that offered quotes for the title search work.

Comstock acknowledged that he likely mentioned Lawyers Title Agency of Delaware and Great American Title Agency, which was originally awarded the contract. The company later declined to accept it due to a potential conflict of interest involving one of its partners also serving as a member of the Delaware County Board of Elections.

However, Comstock said that he did not reach out to either firm and instead left that up to the Ohio Regional Development Corporation, which was contracted to administer the program.

“I don’t want to be involved in the day-to-day operations,” he said.

Commissioner Tommy Thompson defended the process that was used to find a company to perform title searches.

“There are guidelines; there are procedures,” he said. “If our economic development department followed all those procedures, that’s all we can ask.”

Great American Title Agency offered to perform each title search for $250. Lawyers Title Agency of Delaware will perform the searches for $375 each.

The Moving Ohio Forward Grant will provide the county with $500,000 to remove blighted residential properties. Comstock expects the county to be able to tear down between 30 and 40 properties with the funds.

O’Brien also took issue with the way in which another county program is being administered. The commissioners approved eight cooperation agreements with political subdivisions for the Delaware County Engineer’s Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) Grant Program.

Through the program in place since about 2000, the Delaware County Engineer’s Office uses Road and Bridge Funds to match funding put forth by townships and municipalities to increase their chances of securing grants for road improvement projects.

“Basically the intent of this program is to increase the likelihood of roadway construction in Delaware County,” Delaware County Chief Deputy Engineer Rob Riley said.

O’Brien voted in favor of seven of the agreements, but was the lone no vote on one that includes both the City of Delaware and Delaware Township. He said that it is unfair that the City of Delaware was able to apply twice, once in partnership with Delaware Township and once on its own.

But Riley pointed out that the City of Delaware will not receiving matching funds from the county for the joint road project with Delaware Township.

“We are only matching the township portion of that project,” he said. “Our policies and procedures hold true.”

On Thursday, the commissioners also:

- Voted unanimously in favor of authorizing the Delaware County Engineer’s Office to apply for a grant to supplement the cost of replacing three bridges on Ross Road, north of Ohio 37 in Trenton Township. Overall, the project is expected to cost about $1.3 million and the engineer’s office is hoping to obtain about $500,000 from the OPWC. Construction is expected to begin in August 2013 and last for about five months.

- Voted 3-0 in favor of approving a request for statement of qualifications for architectural/engineering consultant services for a facilities needs assessment and plan.

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