STEUBENVILLE - Jefferson County commissioners Thursday formally pledged support for the county's port authority.
All three commissioners agreed to give the port authority up to $100,000 in funding next year. The county had been providing about $75,000 to the Community Improvement Corp. to fund Progress Alliance.
The port authority was established and board members named over the summer with the purpose of being a catalyst for economic development.
"As I have said, we felt the port authority is a great engine for economic development," said county Commissioner David Maple. "It would be extremely unwise not to adequately fund it."
County Commissioner Thomas Graham said he is in favor of giving the port authority the funding to get it up and running and to hire an executive director.
"It certainly is the next phase of economic development," he said.
Graham said the CIC has done a "marvelous job" in getting business to locate in the county or helping existing businesses expand, but the port authority can take economic development a step further.
County Commissioner Tom Gentile said the commissioners and the city have spent the past three years in getting the mechanics of the port authority in place. He said the port authority has a "diverse and talented" board.
"It would be a shame not to fund the organization for them to be the main economic development authority in Jefferson County," he said.
Graham said the goal is for the port authority to become self-sufficient at some point and no longer need public money to operate.
In other matters, commissioners learned that about 20 houses in Pottery Addition have not paid to be connected to the recently installed sewer line in the community.
Shannan Gosbin, county water and sewer department director, said a resolution approved by the commissioners allows the county to begin billing the houses for sewage treatment even though the homes haven't been connected to the sewer system. The homes will be turned into the county health department in 60 days for further action. The county was mandated by the state to install sewers because raw sewage was being dumped into the Ohio River.
Gosbin also said the county's engineering firm, Malcolm Pirnie, has been asked to do design work on a water line extension to Bradley, outside Smithfield. She said the project to provide water to about 83 customers will cost about $1.5 million. Gosbin said the county could be ready to bid the project in the spring. Bradley residents have been asking the county for water service for about 10 years.
Gosbin said the water and sewer department had anticipated spending upwards of $4.3 million on the improvements to the Brilliant booster station to supply water to the southern end of the county, but bids came in at $3.1 million. She said the money not spent on the booster station work could be earmarked for the Bradley water line extension.
Maple said the debt already was planned.
Opened four bids for a new roof for the county Job and Family Services building. The engineer's estimate was $290,000. N.F. Mansuetto & Sons of Martins Ferry submitted the apparent low bid of $198,850.
Met in executive session to discuss the tax abatement agreement with the Wal-Mart Distribution Center off state Route 43. A representative of Edison Local School District was invited into the meeting to discuss the school district's financial concerns. The current 10-year tax abatement agreement is expiring.
Heard a funding request from county Recorder Paul McKeegan for an additional $5,000 in funding to make payroll for the rest of the year. The recorder's office has $221,000 in its equipment fund, generated by recording fees. The money can be transferred to the general fund if the commissioners and McKeegan agree the amount is excessive. McKeegan was asked to be at the commissioners' meeting but failed to attend.
Approved the transfer of about $27,500 to the common pleas court attorney fees fund for indigent defendants to cover costs through the remainder of the year. The amount still may not be enough, according to the auditor's office.
Approved a five-year contract between the county regional airport authority and Michael Baker Jr. Inc. of Moon Township, Pa., for engineering services for the airport.
Agreed to file on behalf of the county regional airport authority a preapplication for a Federal Aviation Administration grant to purchase snow removal equipment. The FAA will pay 90 percent of the estimated $259,000 for the equipment.
Agreed to provide almost $10,000 to the Friendship Park Board to pay a contractor, Utility Contracting of Youngstown, to install 1,280 feet of sewer lines from the sewage treatment plant at the park to the main campground.
Graham said the commissioners want Friendship Park to become self-sufficient, and the sewer service to the campgrounds will help in that goal.
Were informed by the county engineer's department that county Road 56 is scheduled to be reopened to traffic later today after being closed for six weeks for a slip-repair project.