County talks runway snag

STEUBENVILLE – The Jefferson County commissioners met Thursday with the county’s airport authority to discuss how to proceed with a snag in plans to expand the runway at the airport.

Commissioners opened bids last week for the runway extension project, but the Federal Aviation Administration recently informed the county the runway, in addition to being extended to to 5,000 feet, would also have to be widened to 75 feet from the existing 60 feet.

Commissioners questioned why the airport’s authority’s engineer, Michael Baker Jr. Inc., didn’t recognize that the runway would have to be widened. County Commissioner Tom Gentile said it is not an FAA requirement to widen the runway, but the FAA is insisting it be done in this case.

The longer runway will allow larger corporate jets and planes to land at the airport, which has seen increased use recently, mainly due to the oil and gas industry.

Because of the widening of the runway, the airport authority is eliminating a planned taxiway extension.

The bids opened last week were for earthwork, asphalt and electrical work for runway lights.

Geary Bates of the airport authority said the earthwork will still be done on the taxiway, but it won’t be paved. He said the paving bids were based on a unit cost and nearly the same amount of pavement will have to be laid for the widening of the runway as for the paving of the taxiway.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said he wants an opinion from the prosecutor’s office to determine if the project will have to be rebid because the job has changed.

County Commissioner David Maple said a company could make the argument the project has changed. Maple said if there are delays, he wants the engineering firm to pay for the cost.

Commissioners then met in executive session with the airport authority to discuss contractual obligations with the engineer.

Commissioners also signed an agreement with the state for the installation of new radio equipment that will be used by the county’s 911 system. Robert Herrington, county 911 director, said the state will pay for most of the cost of the equipment, which is used by police agencies, mainly the highway patrol, all over the state. The main part of the radio system will be located in Columbus, he said. There will be four antennas with equipment located in rural areas, including Jefferson County.

Herrington said the agreement will save Jefferson County $2.2 million over 10 years.

Herrington said the new radio equipment will allow more public emergency personnel to be on the air during an emergency situation.

Commissioners also made a change in the county’s health insurance policy. Graham said the new federal health insurance law requires health insurance to be made available to employees working 30 or more hours a week. The county’s policy has been to offer insurance to employees who work 32 hours a week. Graham said the change only impacts eight employees out of 703 county workers. Graham said the county spends $4.2 million a year on health insurance for workers. Under the new federal health insurance law, the county could skip paying for insurance and only pay a federal fine of $1.4 million a year.

Commissioners also:

Approved attorney fees for indigent defendant attorney fees for June totaling $50,019,

Signed an agreement with the state to turn back $90,000 to the state for unused money from the Workforce Investment Act national emergency grant for flood cleanup. The grant came through the county’s Job and Family Service Department and administered through the county’s Community Action Council. The original grant, awarded in 2010, was for $1.7 million.

Signed an agreement with the state under the Workforce Investment Act for summer youth employment training in an amount not to exceed $179,702. The program will allow for about 90 young people to get summer jobs, internships or job shadowing.

Signed an agreement with the state under the Workforce Investment Act for job training for adults and dislocated workers in an amount not to exceed $341,054. About 56 adults and 43 dislocated workers will receive job training under the program. The amount of funding decreased by 50 percent from previous years.

Signed contracts with Beaver, Butler and Fayette counties in Pennsylvania to house juveniles in the Jefferson County juvenile detention center at a cost of $145 a day. The amount was increased from $130 a day.

Agreed to advertise for maintenance supervisor for county buildings, including the Towers.

Announced the commissioners will be in attendance at a weekly progress meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the county’s water and sewer office to discuss concerns residents have with yard restoration work done by Rudzik Excavating on the Crestview-Belvedere sewer system installation.

Shannan Gosbin, county water and sewer director, said the announcement may be made next week that residents can start connecting their homes to the sewer system.