County invited to port talks

STEUBENVILLE – Jefferson County commissioners were asked to attend a City Council finance meeting on Tuesday to discuss funding for the county port authority.

Commissioners on Thursday were approached by 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna about asking the city to contribute to the port authority’s funding. The city and county agreed to form the county port authority if the city eliminated the city’s port authority, with the city and county each appointing four members to the port board.

City Council is considering as part of its budget to contribute $5,000. The county currently pays $150,000.

Villamagna said he wants the city to pay its fair share for the port authority to increase economic development.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile said the city worked closely with the county in the formation of the port authority.

“The city was intimately involved right up until writing a check,” he said.

Gentile said Steubenville has the best property available for economic development, adding the city has highways, railroads, river access and proximity to Pittsburgh.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said every community benefits from economic development. He said the port authority board is a good representation from throughout the county.

Graham said the county believed the city would be a big contributor to the port authority operations. He said the county contributed $75,000 and then increased it to $150,000 because, without the extra money, the port authority would have folded operations.

“We stepped up to the plate and appreciate Steubenville being willing to contribute,” Graham said.

Gentile said the county would have never agreed to the city having four appointments to the port authority if it was known then that the city wouldn’t be contributing funding.

Graham said the port authority has to work for “the sake of our kids and grandkids.”

Villamagna said outside businesses need to see council and the commissioners working together on the port authority.

County Commissioner David Maple was absent from the meeting.

In other matters, commissioners were informed in an opinion from the county prosecutor’s office that the county will have to readvertise for bids for the paving of the runway extension project at the county airport.

The scope of work changed on the project when the Federal Aviation Administration informed the county’s regional airport authority that the runway also would have to be widened in addition to extending the length.

Shelly and Sands of Rayland, the sole bidder, agreed to hold the bid at a cost of $966,780.

Commissioners had rejected the bids and agreed to readvertise for the project. That is when Shelly and Sands agreed to hold its price.

“Because the original scope and design of the project has now changed and because the price bid was, in essence, rejected and a motion for the rebid approved and passed, it would be both prudent and in the spirit of the competitive bidding statutes to rebid the paving portion of the project,” said county Assistant Prosecutor Michael Calabria in his opinion to the commissioners.

Commissioners voted Thursday to rebid the project, further delaying a project that is already behind schedule. The bidding process will take about four weeks.

The commissioners already have readvertised for aggregates for the project when the original bids came in above the estimate.

The county received $1.5 million in state grants. The original deadline for completing the work under the grant agreements is May 31. Gentile said the commissioners can go beyond that date if it is shown the work is progressing.

Commissioners also agreed to advertise for a new director at the county water and sewer department. Shannan Gosbin, current director, submitted her resignation effective today.

Commissioners appointed Mike Eroshevich, water and sewer department operations supervisor, as interim director of the department.

Commissioners also discussed moving the Ohio State University Extension Office and the county soil and water conservation district into the Towers.

Both agencies are located at the former Bantam Ridge Elementary School, 587 Bantam Ridge Road, Wintersville.

Jeannine Yeske, extension office director, said the agency pays $9,360 a year in rent to the Indian Creek Local School Board.

Graham said the county is working to reduce rent for agencies in noncounty-owned buildings. He said the county wants to create a one-stop shopping in a building for agencies.

The extension office is concerned about having night activities and meetings at the Towers. Commissioners said the night activities and meetings can be held at the county’s airport terminal or animal shelter.

Commissioners also:

– Opened bids for aggregates for the county engineer for summer construction.

– Approved attorney fees for indigent criminal defendants in the amount of $9,622 for February.