Authority considers land rules

WINTERSVILLE – The Jefferson County Port Authority board of directors agreed to seek legal advice on property purchased years ago in the industrial park but never developed.

The board met in executive session for 14 minutes to discuss a possible covenant violation and approved a motion to hire a legal counsel to determine if there is a covenant violation.

Authority Chairman Jay Zatta declined to identify the property owner until a legal ruling is issued.

The decision to seek legal advice came during a four-hour monthly meeting that included three executive sessions, the resignation of board member Geary Bates and a request for the authority staff to focus on key issues.

Bates had announced his resignation from the board last month citing health issues and his dedication to the Jefferson County Airpark. He was replaced on the authority board by Derek Ferguson.

“I have served with Geary on two different boards and he is one of the finest individuals I have ever met. He did a lot more than I did getting the port authority off the ground. Geary emphasizes the value of individuals who start their businesses from the ground up,” cited board member Rob D’Anniballe.

Zatta said he has known and worked with Ferguson for more than 20 years.

“He will be a great addition to the board. His level of expertise will be invaluable,” noted Zatta.

Following the third and final 30-minute executive session, board members addressed the two authority staff employees regarding two key issues.

“Those issues are the authority website and fundraising. Jay will work with you on those issues and we are asking you to establish a working relationship with the committee chairs. I know there is a lot going on today and you have a lot of work. We just need to get the website finalized so we can start our fundraising and hire an economic director,” D’Anniballe said.

“The presentation you made today made my head spin because there is so much going on these days. You two are running in several different directions. It is apparent to us all there will be emergencies and priorities that will continue to pop up if we don’t get our arms around this,” added D’Anniballe.

“I believe we need to prioritize the issues as we move forward,” added board member Mark Teramana.

In other business, staff member Kim Cline-DeLuca reported, “the authority staff has been very busy in numerous areas.”

“Our industrial park is on fire these days. We hope to be out of available properties in the industrial park very soon,” said Cline-DeLuca.

“We are continuing to work with John Riley and his plans to build in the industrial park as well as other companies interested in the industrial park and other properties throughout the county,” explained Cline-DeLuca.

The board then met in a 45-minute executive session to discuss a letter of intent for the sale of industrial park property to an unidentified buyer.

Staff member Donna Hrezo told the board the industrial park tenants have requested help dealing with trucks parking overnight in the park.

Hrezo said she plans to “reach out to the Wal-Mart Distribution Center regarding the truck drivers staging in the industrial park and County Engineer Jim Branagan to set up signage at the park prohibiting truck drivers from staging at the park.

The board also discussed the possibility of partnering with the Business Resource Network and agreed to invite a BRN representative to the June 4 meeting.

Board member Greg Nemeth asked his colleagues to consider buying property in the southern end of Jefferson County, “to establish a second industrial park.”

“We have river and rail and I know of a 300-acre property that would be a good site for an industrial park,” said Nemeth.

And Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile urged the authority members to pay attention to Harrison and Belmont counties.

“The oil and gas economic development jumped to those two counties but it will come back to us. I believe we are one year behind Harrison and Belmont counties and probably two years behind Carroll County,” said Gentile.

The board agreed to tentatively schedule an open house at the authority offices at the Jefferson County Airport on June 3.