Commissioners look to protect airport

STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County commissioners on Thursday discussed zoning around the county airport and the formation of a committee to study the feasibility of a public defender’s office.

Commissioners received an opinion from the prosecutor’s office about zoning around the airport. The issue was raised in response to a proposal to reopen the Crossridge Landfill. Greenway Reclamation of Garden City, N.Y., is proposing to reopen the landfill, make existing environmental remediations in exchange for the ability to accept a large amount of out-of-state waste.

But airport officials said an operating landfill close to the facility creates safety concerns because of planes hitting birds, which are attracted to landfills.

Commissioner David Maple said the county has to protect the asset of the airport.

Geary Bates, vice president of the regional airport authority, said $40 million has been invested in the airport. The end of the runway is about 4,500 feet from the landfill.

He said state regulations require a separation of 10,000 feet between a landfill and an airport. He said federal regulations are 6 miles.

Assistant Prosecutor Michael Calabria said the commissioners will be the airport zoning board, who will appoint the airport zoning commission.

The airport zoning commission will study what regulations should be in place to protect the airport and make a recommendation to the commissioners for adoption. Calabria recommended the commissioners closely work with Ohio Department of Transportation Office of Aviation.

The zoning can include the height of structures around the airport, which could interfere with a plane landing or taking off, or other safety hazards.

Brian Thaxton, airport manager, said the airport’s consulting engineer has had the mapping done for the area surrounding the airport.

Maple said the commissioners will meet with the airport authority on the naming of members to the airport zoning commission.

He said he anticipates the process of getting the zoning in place to take about six months.

“The hazards will be fairly well defined,” Maple said. “We need to close the risk on the asset.”

Commissioner Thomas Graham said the process is cumbersome, but it has to be done correctly.

Graham had sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, about the Crossridge Landfill proposal. Johnson said the licensing of the landfill is a state matter. Even so, Johnson said he reached out to Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials to share his concerns about the reopening of the landfill.

Graham said he knew Johnson didn’t have any jurisdiction on the matter, but wanted Johnson to make his voice heard.

“We are making our voices known,” Graham said.

Commissioners named the members of a committee to study the feasibility of a public defender’s office to represent indigent criminal defendants in court.

Attorney Steve Stickles told the commissioners last week there are now only four attorneys in the county who take felony court appointments for indigent defendants. He said there are so few attorneys willing to do court-appointed cases. He said that puts the county in danger because federal and state governments require attorneys be appointed in cases when a person can’t afford it.

The county has been paying an average of $430,000 a year during the last 10 years for attorneys in indigent cases in the county courts and municipal and common pleas courts. The county was receiving about 42 percent reimbursement from the state for the cost. The state has increased the amount to 80 percent now, with the rate expected to increase to 90 percent this year.

Because of the reimbursement rate, Stickles believes a public defender’s office is now feasible.

Commissioners appointed Maple, Stickles, Common Pleas Judge Michelle Miller, Steubenville Municipal Judge John Mascio and county Auditor E.J. Conn to the committee.

Commissioners agreed to a request from county Engineer James Branagan for a 25 percent reduction in hauling weight on 58 county roads during the frost-thaw season of Feb. 1 through April 30. Commissioner Tom Gentile said he is concerned about large garbage trucks on county roads. Branagan said the garbage trucks also have to comply with the weight reductions.

Branagan informed the commissioners of the total miles of county roads as prepared by the Ohio Department of Transportation. There are 216.104 miles of county roads. Branagan said the state uses that figure to calculate revenue, including gasoline and diesel taxes, to the county.

Commissioners agreed to advertise for bids for bituminous and asphalt concrete products and aggregates for use by the engineer’s department for the summer paving season.

Commissioners signed a road use maintenance agreement with Encino Acquisition Partners for a new well site on Springfield Township Road 267. The road will be upgraded prior to construction of the well, Branagan said.

Commissioners signed six road use maintenance agreement amendments with Encino for current wells which where purchased from Chesapeake Energy. Encino agreed to maintain the roads leading to the well sites.