Jefferson County Commission to support work on Hellbender Preserve

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District will receive an extra $4,000 for additional expenses related to the Hellbender Preserve, and upped the budget ceiling by another $6,000 in case something else comes up.

Watershed Coordinator Aaron Dodds told commissioners this week that behind-the-scenes work being done now “will be wrapped up, probably by July 15.”

“The $10,000 would cover everything,” Dodds said. “I don’t foresee us using all of (it).”

During the commission’s June 11 meeting, Gentile suggested using oil and gas royalties to cover the overage.

“I can’t imagine a better way to use it than for the benefit of the citizens of Jefferson County,” he said.

Walking trails, outdoor education, preservation activities, conservation and recreation areas are envisioned for the 400-acre preserve, which would be in Cross Creek and Wayne townships.

Commissioners also signed off on a $249,000 FAA grant application for a new Automated Weather Observation System at the Jefferson County Airpark.

“It’s really amazing, that FAA will reimburse 100 percent of the project,” Commissioner Tom Graham said. “It’s a tribute to (people) doing a lot of good work out there.”

Gentile pointed out early estimates pegged the AWOS as a half-million dollar project, “but they worked to keep costs down. That’s great.”

Commissioners also were told the Ohio Department of Transportation Aviation, grappling with a $3.1 million budget reduction, is cutting off grant funding for the Runway 32 precision approach path indicator light project at $7,000, the amount the Jefferson County Airport Authority has spent to date with the expectation of state funding. A contractor already had been chosen for the $60,000 PAPI project.

“The projects that we did get done the last three years, before this (happened), I’m glad,” Commissioner Dave Maple said. “Our timing was good. This project, I wouldn’t call it a luxury — it’s a really, really important infrastructure project but it’s been (pushed) back a bit because of the COVID-19 (outbreak).”

“The AWOS and PAPI, these things are greatly anticipated and needed,” Gentile added. “We’ve got a great operation out there.”

Acting on the recommendation of Auditor E.J. Conn, commissioners established a county coronavirus relief distribution fund and a local coronavirus relief fund, prerequisites to receiving federal funds to cover costs incurred in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioners awarded the bid for slip repairs to Jefferson County Road 26-6.1 to Howard Bowers Contracting Co., the low bidder at $45,192.50. Ohio-West Virginia Excavating Co. had bid $53,688.

County Engineer Jim Branagan told commissioners fixing the 75-foot long slip will involve driving steel piles, installing lagging and repairing the road.

“The recent failure needs repaired due to the severity of damage and potential to get worse,” he noted.

Commissioners also authorized a request for bids for resurfacing County Road 34 and roads in Brush Creek Mount Pleasant and Steubenville township. The project will be partially funded with an Ohio Public Works Commission grant.

Fernwood Road resident Tony Morelli raised concerns about the impact increased oil and gas trucks may have on County Road 33 while the slip is being repaired. He also addressed the need for internet availability in rural areas.

Commissioners also:

≤ Signed off on a $7,000 grant application for training and equipment for the Jefferson County Special Response Team. Training will consist of a 40-hour SWAT operator course, certifying team members as SWAT operators and thus limiting potential liabilities that might be incurred in emergency situations.

≤ Approved a memorandum of understanding needed in order for the Jefferson County Law Library Resources Board to get a grant from the Statewide Consortium of County Law Library Resources.

The MOU documents how the money will be spent, commissioners said.

≤ Endorsed the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Adult and Dislocated Worker Program contract between the Jefferson County Department of Job & Family Services and the Community Action Council. The contract, contingent on availability of federal and state funds, would not exceed $838,727 — $495,336 in adult funding and $343,391 in dislocated worker funding — and would run from July 1 through June 30, 2021.

A separate contract for $523,427 for the Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Youth Program also was approved between Jobs and Family Services and CAC.

≤ Authorized a change in sanitation providers for the Jefferson County Animal Shelter. Dog Warden Chad Coil said the shelter needs a new dumpster, but under its current contract with Wintersville’s sanitation department that’s not included in the $104 a month contract. A new dumpster and maintenance are included in the $94 a month quote Coil obtained from Kimble.

Coil also reported 60 dogs brought into the shelter, 19 as strays. Thirty-one dogs were adopted, 11 reclaimed and 13 fostered. Two were euthanized — one for medical reasons, the other for aggression.

“Even though it’s not a no-kill shelter, we come very close to that,” Graham said.


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