Riley work topic

WINTERSVILLE – The Jefferson County Port Authority initially agreed during a four-hour meeting Tuesday to assist John Riley, owner of Riley Petroleum, with his plans to build a 15,000-square-foot warehouse and office building in the Jefferson County Industrial Park.

But that enthusiasm was tempered later in the meeting after authority members learned their organization would be responsible for constructing the new building.

The nine-member port authority agreed to ask the Community Improvement Corp. to transfer the 5-acre lot in the industrial park to the port authority, subject to a legal review, along with a state grant and low-interest loan for the project.

“But, this project will take some time. We can continue discussing this at our next meeting, but we may also need to convene a special board meeting,” said authority Chairman Jay Zatta.

Earlier in the meeting, Riley explained he wants to construct a 12,000-square-foot warehouse and an additional 3,000-square-foot office building.

“This would be on a 5-acre lot. We have sold our retail stores but will continue to operate our petroleum company. The grant and low-interest loan was originally given to the CIC and Progress Alliance. Now we need to funnel that money through the port authority. This is an exciting time in Jefferson County, and we are ready to grow our business. Business doesn’t move at the speed of government. We need to get moving on this project,” explained Riley.

“I also need the road to the property finished at the industrial park. Getting that road finished will open up a prime 30-acre parcel for future development. I have already spent about $60,000 on architectural and engineering work. This project is contingent on everything falling into place,” added Riley.

“I would encourage the port authority to contact the CIC regarding this issue. The commissioners see this as a gain for the county. The group that purchased the retail stores has indicated they will all remain open, and they have also purchased a store in Brilliant,” stated Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile.

The port authority members heard from Ed Looman, the former Progress Alliance executive director, later in the meeting who explained the authority would be responsible for a new building in the industrial park, and it could then sell the building to Riley Petroleum.

In other business, the authority met in executive session for 20 minutes and then announced it was offering jobs to Kim Cline-DeLuca and Donna Hrezo with the economic development agency. Both women currently work for the CIC and Progress Alliance, which are set to cease operations by March 1.

Zatta informed the authority members he has received a legal opinion indicating the port authority does not need a nonprofit status to solicit tax-deductible financial donations from individuals and businesses.

“I have been told by the Bricker & Eckler law firm that we are a political subdivision. There are other things we need to think about, including a code of ethics,” said Zatta.

Zatta also said the port authority will need financial support from the county commissioners, “on a front-loaded basis as we start our operations with a staff and office equipment.”

Gentile said he will ask the county’s informational technology staff to make sure the temporary authority offices at the Jefferson County Airpark are set up for Internet and phone service.

The board agreed to spend up to $2,500 for new computers and programs with a stipulation the equipment be purchased in Jefferson County. Zatta and authority members Greg Nemeth and Geary Bates will arrange for furniture to be moved to the temporary offices at the airpark.

Mark Teramana reported he and Zatta met with Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci and Toronto Mayor John Geddis to outline future plans for the port authority.

“I think those meetings went very well. Toronto is interested in working with the authority. I hope to meet with the mayor of Mingo Junction in the near future,” remarked Teramana.

Nemeth suggested authority members should meet with the Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission.

“That group includes mayors of every town and village as well as township trustees. That would be a good meeting to meet people from all over the county,” cited Nemeth.

Debbie Venci was appointed to organize a fundraising campaign.

“I believe we need to keep this a very professional effort. We plan to first contact the current Progress Alliance members, then the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce members and then the regional planning members. And, it will be important to tell everyone they will have a voice at the port authority. We should also start our fundraising efforts before we start advertising for an executive director,” Venci said.

“There have been a lot of discussions among the port authority, the CIC and the county commissioners. But I have to tell you, our economic development offices have been the gold standard. Other counties are envious of our economic development work. Our local efforts have been outstanding,” stated Gentile.

The next regular port authority meeting was set for 9 a.m. on March 5 at the airpark office building.