Roads garner county attention

STEUBENVILLE – Road use by companies engaged in oil and gas drilling was discussed during Thursday’s Jefferson County commissioners’ meeting.

Edward Hashbarger of Salem Township, representing citizens living on Salem Township Road 204 and other surrounding roads, as well as the Jefferson County Citizens for Environmental Truth, approached commissioners with concerns about township roads being damaged by trucks travel tied to the oil and gas industry. He also submitted a petition he said was signed by 30 citizens of Salem Township Road 204 asking commissioners to limit truck travel on the road.

“We’re here to talk about our roads being destroyed by oil and gas (trucks),” said Hashbarger, adding the truckers are causing havoc on the roads.

Hashbarger also said roads were being torn up by the truck traffic, as well as causing traffic congestion, dust, unsafe conditions and speeding.

“(The signers of the petition) want all gas and oil traffic on this road to stop,” said Hashbarger, adding it is only a matter of time before there is a serious accident. “They also almost hit a child. We have six members here today from our organization. We don’t want that traffic, We’re the taxpayers, and we’re the voters.”

Hashbarger also said there are alternate routes trucks could be using instead of the township road. He added he’d like to see public hearings concerning truck travel by companies in the gas and oil industry before companies use the roads.

Terry Bell, Salem Township trustee, said he’d had conversations with officials from the oil and gas company involved, and they had promised to repair any damage to roads caused by truck traffic.

“I have a level of confidence they will fix the road based on past experience,” said Bell, adding public roads can be used by anyone.

“I empathize with you, but we have no law enforcement capability,” said Commissioner Tom Graham, adding the matter of speeding and illegal vehicle activity on township roads is the responsibility of local law enforcement.

“But we’re the ones with torn up roads, the (additional) traffic, the dust and getting run off the roads,” responded Hashbarger, adding he planned to discuss the issue with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

Jim Branagan, Jefferson County engineer, said he’d inspected the road, and “I was surprised it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” he said. “If (a company) damages the road, they have to fix it. (The companies) pick the roads they use. We don’t pick the roads for them.”

Commissioner Tom Gentile said Bell had been a strong advocate for protection of county roads, and “I have confidence any damage to roads will be fixed. We can’t do anything about (speeding). We need to let law enforcement know about that.”

Graham said he would try to set up a meeting between company officials and township trustees to discuss the matter.

In other matters:

– Bill Smythe of the Brilliant American Legion Post 573 and president of the Jefferson County Veterans Association approached commissioners regarding several aspects of the veterans memorial/museum at Friendship Park.

“I was hoping to get some lighting on the flag before the (Jefferson County) Fair began,” said Smythe.

“We were hoping to get some solar lighting out there, but I’d be happy to replace those with bulbs in the short run,” said Gentile.

It was announced the fixtures for the lighting were in place, and the flag would be lit before the fair begins. Smythe also said the Air Force aircraft at the memorial/museum is in need of maintenance, along with the Army tank. He said past contracts between the military and past commissioners stipulated the county would be responsible for maintenance of both, or the military could take them back.

Gentile and Graham said maintenance could be an excellent service project for students at the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School. Graham asked for copies of the contracts to determine the county’s responsibilities.

“That could be an ideal project for community participation on this,” said Gentile.

– Graham brought up the idea of a county bed tax, where a tax would be levied on transients involved in oil and gas exploitation coming to the county.

“It would apply to any (hotels, establishments) outside the (Steubenville) city limits,” Graham said. “A lot of other counties have already done this.”

Gentile agreed with the idea.

– Graham announced the Jefferson County Veterans Service Commission will be moving to the Ohio Valley Towers by Sept. 20.

– It was announced the Jefferson County Fair will open at 5 p.m. Monday with free admission.

– It was announced the next commissioners’ meeting has been moved to 9 a.m. Aug. 16 in the commissioners’ office at the county courthouse.