County improvement projects studied

STEUBENVILLE – Jefferson County commissioners on Friday focused on capital improvement projects, signing or approving $1.1 million in road and bridge project contracts and taking the first step in issuing a $2 million bond for work on the Towers and demolition of the Courthouse Annex.

Commissioners have been discussing new roofs at the Towers, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements.

The bond money also will tear down the annex building and convert the site to a public parking lot and replace the boiler at the county Justice Center.

County Commissioner David Maple said the county has been managing its debt load and can take on more debt without any significant impact.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile said the county has a bond payment for work on the justice center that will expire in 2017. That bond payment is $500,000 a year.

“It is one more example of looking into the future, analyzing debt, looking at the need for repairs and putting a plan in place,” Gentile said.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham was absent from the meeting.

Commissioners agreed to obtain the bond through JP Morgan Chase Bank of Wheeling after receiving quotes from three banks. The rate will be fixed at 3.52 percent, resulting in the county borrowing $2.48 million over 10 years.

The actual amount of the bond will be determined after the projects are completed.

County Auditor Patrick Marshall said the commissioners knew improvements were needed at the Towers building at 500 Market St. when it was purchased.

Debbie Hukill, the county’s insurance consultant, said the County Risk Sharing Authority, when it came in to insure the Towers, was impressed that the county was able to purchase the building for $750,000, even with the improvements needed. She said the replacement cost of the building is $16 million.

“It will turn out to be a good business deal,” Maple said.

Commissioners also signed or approved road and bridge improvement contracts totaling $1.1 million.

The projects are:

– Shelly & Sands Inc. of Rayland, $142,401 for Community Development Block Grant paving in Saline and Wayne townships and Mingo Junction.

– Shelly & Sands, $468,010 for paving of the county’s Developmental Disabilities road and parking lot off John Scott Highway.

– D&L Unlimited Construction of Wintersville, $88,909, for a bridge replacement on county Road 7.

– Williams Excavating and Trucking of Bloomingdale, $52,762 for slip repair on county Road 18.

– Lash Paving of Colerain, $411,005 for the paving of township roads in Cross Creek, Ross and Springfield townships.

Commissioners also agreed to advance the county regional airport authority $218,448 for engineering work on the runway extension project.

The county received $1.5 million in state grants to pay for part of the work, but the grants did not include engineering costs.

The airport authority is in the process of negotiating mineral rights for oil and gas drilling on airport property. The proceeds from that will be used to repay the county.

Maple had requested the airport authority put the request in writing to the commissioners, which was read at the meeting on Friday.

Commissioners said the money will be advanced from the emergency fund and must be repaid by the end of the year.

Commissioners also approved a new contract between the county’s Developmental Disabilities agency and 10 bus drivers who are members of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, Local 383.

The three-year contract includes a 1.5 percent pay increase in the first year and the drivers will move up one step in the pay scale.