STEUBENVILLE - Progress Alliance, for the past 16 years the lead economic agency in Jefferson County, will cease to exist following Thursday's short, and at times tense, final meeting of the Community Improvement Corp.
The CIC board of directors unanimously approved an exit strategy that included refunding all donations for Progress Alliance to private individuals and organizations.
Jay Zatta, chairman of the Jefferson County Port Authority, had hoped to persuade the CIC directors to offer the donors an opportunity to move donations from Progress Alliance directly to the authority.
A HANDSHAKE — Community Improvement Corp. Chairman Bob Chapman, left, shakes hands with Jefferson County Port Authority Chairman Jay Zatta following the final meeting of the CIC Thursday. The CIC board of directors agreed to close Progress Alliance by February. - Dave Gossett
"It doesn't have to be this way," Zatta told the CIC directors.
"You are not going to get a lot of support today. You burned the bridge. We didn't burn the bridge," responded Chapman.
The directors agreed to include a letter to the donors indicating the refunded donations can be sent to the port authority.
Zatta was successful in persuading the CIC to allow the authority to discuss future jobs for the two staff employees still working at the CIC offices.
Chapman initially said Donna Hrezo and Kim Cline DeLuca, "are not indentured servants. They are free agents. If you want to hire them, then go ahead."
The directors moved into an executive session to discuss personnel at the urging of Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Graham and emerged 28 minutes later with Chapman pledging cooperation between the CIC and the port authority.
"We all agree we have an excellent staff. If you would like to offer them a job, we would appreciate it. But it is up to them. As I said before, they are not indentured servants. You would be blessed to have them," declared Chapman.
After Chapman indicated all furniture and computers belonging to the CIC will be auctioned off, Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile said he will ask his fellow commissioners to agree to purchase the CIC computers and donate them to the port authority.
The CIC directors began planning the exit strategy in December after the commissioners announced they planned to stop their $75,000 annual funding for Progress Alliance and provide $100,000 in future funding for the port authority.
"This is our final CIC meeting. Our staff has compiled a transition list so nothing is lost in the shuffle. And, we have been meeting every Friday on this transition. Ed Looman will continue working on the transition on a part- time basis," Chapman announced.
"The money left in our account will go to satisfy our debts. If any money is left. it will be up to our board to decide where that money goes," Chapman said.
He later remarked all intellectual property at the CIC offices, "belongs to the citizens, so it should be transferred to the port authority. There is no problem with that. We all want to see success for Jefferson County."
Chapman said Progress Alliance will end in February and the CIC will hire an attorney to review all legal issues involved with the decision to dissolve the CIC.
"I really believe all people are concerned about Jefferson County and economic development. We want a smooth and orderly transition," Chapman stated.
"I am pleased we are moving forward and have a transition plan established for Jefferson County. The port authority board will meet Tuesday to invite the CIC personnel to work at the authority. We will work on our budget and start working on future plans," Zatta said after the meeting.
"The No. 1 priority for all of us is economic development opportunities for our county. The state of Ohio has watched what we have accomplished in Jefferson County, and it is important for us to send a clear message to the business community that we are continuing to offer economic development opportunities here," said Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci.