Council meets with port authority

STEUBENVILLE – The meeting Thursday night between City Council members and the Jefferson County Port Authority Board of Directors started with a blunt request for financial support from the city and ended 90 minutes later with conversations about strong collaboration in the future.

The meeting at the Historic Fort Steuben Visitors Center had been arranged by 3rd Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf after he heard Port Authority directors discuss the lack of financial support at a board meeting earlier this year.

“We are happy you invited us to participate in your economic development committee meeting. But I do feel compelled to talk about the fact the city has an equal number of appointments to the Port Authority’s Board of Directors as the county. I understand the city’s budget issues. But I urge you to support us financially in every way you can,” stated Port Authority Chairman Rob D’Anniballe.

“The next best thing is working with us to present a good message. Today with social media and press coverage things are reported that are easily accessible by potential investors. We need you to support us financially and carry a positive message about the community to investors. We always have at least one county commissioner at our monthly meetings and I am encouraged to see the city attend when you can. I hope to see your participation continue,” added D’Anniballe.

“No doubt we are here to support the Port Authority. And as the lead negotiator for our contract talks with our three unions, you understand the city’s financial condition. We had to reduce our spending in the past. But we do have a line item in our budget for economic development. The funding may not be at the level it once was. But hopefully we can see future funding and growth,” Mayor Domenick Mucci said to D’Anniballe.

“Image is extremely important to this council. This council is committed as well as the city manager to portray a positive image. As our manager looks through the budget we hope our finances improve. And economic development is on top of the 2015 budget,” noted Metcalf.

“I want to be frank with you. The number of appointees the city has on the Port Authority’s Board of Directors is a sore spot with other communities in Jefferson County,” said board member Mark Teramana.

The city has four appointments to the board of directors, the county has four appointments and the Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission has the ninth appointment.

“We really need to look at the issues. We are talking about image. We have been going through some soul searching in this community. I believe everyone in this room recognizes the challenges before us. I appreciate the past history but we need to move forward. How can we come together and how can we communicate. I have been talking for some time about collaboration, cooperation and regionalization,” responded Mucci.

Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna said he was aware of past differences, “but I would like to come up with more money for the Port Authority. I look at a port authority that represents the city and the county and I can see good things happening.”

“The comments here today really strike a chord. Economic development is the game changer. It can improve the quality of life in the community. And I have built a great working relationship with Evan Scurti (director of economic development for the Port Authority). We need to have a good flow of information. We have an opportunity for collaboration between the city and the Port Authority,” remarked City Manager Tim Boland.

Metcalf noted the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville is preparing to make a $5 million investment at the Holy Name Cathedral on South Fifth Street.

“We need to look at more opportunities for economic development,” he said.

“The cathedral investment could be a game changer in the city’s South End,” added Mucci.

The discussion focused on the city’s South End land bank as well as the possibility of an enterprise zone in the city to encourage future economic development and the city’s new comprehensive plan.

“This was a good first step tonight. This was a healthy discussion on how we can help each other. This is all a process to put new economic development tools into our area,” remarked D’Anniballe at the end of the meeting.