Land bank creation advances

STEUBENVILLE – The Jefferson County commissioners Thursday signed the paperwork to begin the formation of a land bank, which could lead to the demolition or improvement of vacant homes throughout the county.

The state Legislature created land banks for counties, a system that allows for liens on properties to be erased.

Domenic Mucci, county Regional Planning Commission director, said county Treasurer Raymond Agresta will file the articles of incorporation for the land bank. The chairman and vice chairman of the commissioners, along with Agresta, will be on the land bank board. Other members may be appointed.

Mucci said the land bank can get up to $500,000 in state funding to begin operations.

The land bank will be funded by taking 5 percent of the proceeds of properties sold at a treasurer or auditor delinquent tax sale.

Jim Rokakis, Thriving Communities Institute director, made a presentation to the commissioners last week about the land bank. Rokakis said there are now 18 land banks and 12 additional counties are considering forming one.

Land banks can hold title to a parcel of property until the new owner makes necessary improvements, he said.

There are financial institutions that have foreclosed on a house and are willing to give title to the property to the land bank.

Rokakis said housing values are dragged down by unkempt properties.

Commissioners also opened bids for the Bradley water line project outside Smithfield. The engineer’s estimate was $1,224,000. Eight bids were received, with J.S. Bova Excavating of North Jackson submitting the apparent low bid of $792,597.

The project consists of 14,600 feet of 8-inch water lines, with fire hydrants, that will serve about 80 homes.

Thomas Hartwig of Arcadis, the county’s engineering consultant, said work is expected to begin in June and be completed in the fall.

Water lines will be installed to the meter pit in the yards of houses. The home owner will be responsible for connecting the line to the home. Home owners will be assessed a cost of $2,500 for the connection, which can be paid all at once or placed on water bills during a 20-year period at 1 percent interest.

Commissioners received a one-year update on an energy savings program at county buildings. The commissioners spent $1.3 million on new lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning and plumbing, which was financed through a state program.

Mark Zappe of Johnson Controls, the consultant on the project, said the county was guaranteed a savings of $121,536 a year. The actual energy savings was $139,346. The annual savings is used to pay the loan for the work.

Commissioners also received an opinion from the prosecutor’s office that the resolution placing the senior services levy on Tuesday’s primary election ballot and the language on the ballot is correct.

The levy will benefit programs operated by Prime Time. Representatives of Jefferson County Senior Services, which also operates programs for senior citizens, stated at an April 3 commissioners’ meeting that the language was not correct.

Commissioners also:

Agreed to advertise for bids for paving projects in Cross Creek, Ross and Springfield townships on behalf of the county engineer’s department at an estimated cost of $401,836. County Engineer James Branagan said the Ohio Public Works Commission will fund 89 percent of the cost.

Heard from Branagan about the state issue on Tuesday’s ballot to continue funding for the Ohio Public Works Commission. He said the program has funded about $25 million to $30 million in projects countywide since it began about 27 years ago. Commissioners agreed to endorse the issue on the ballot.

Agreed to advertise for the Community Development Block Grant paving work in Saline and Wayne townships and Mingo Junction. The engineer’s estimate is $138,000.

Were informed the county’s drug task force received an $11,969 grant from the Ohio Department of Public Safety. The county’s share of the grant is $3,989.

Agreed to give Friendship Park $27,714 for the installation of sewers at the old campground site. Commissioners also will provide $25,000 in recreation funds to the park for operations.

Agreed to endorse school levy issues for Edison Local and Jefferson County Joint Vocational school districts.

Proclaimed Thursday as National Day of Prayer.

Proclaimed May as Foster Parent Recognition Month in the county.