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County can’t help with sewer work

June 8, 2012
By MARK LAW - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Jefferson County commissioners won't be able to help the Island Creek Township trustees pay for improvements to storm sewers in Pottery Addition.

Commissioners read an opinion from the county prosecutor's office Thursday that there is nothing in state law that allows the county to help pay for a township project.

The county is installing wastewater sewers in the community north of Steubenville.

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Jefferson County commissioners

Island Creek Township trustees approached the commissioners on May 24 about help for fixing the storm sewers, which has led to flooding in sections of Pottery Addition.

Island Creek Trustee Sam Grafton said sections of the storm sewers in Pottery Addition are clogged with debris. The contractor installing the wastewater sewers said it would cost between $19,000 and $40,000 to repair and unclog the storm sewers. Grafton said the township could afford about $10,000 of the cost.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said he informed the trustees of the prosecutor's opinion.

County Commissioner David Maple said he called the County Commissioners' Association of Ohio to see if there was anything the county could do to help the trustees.

"It is clear the prosecutor's office said we are not allowed to spend the money," he said.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile said the township will have to come up with the money on its own.

Commissioners also expressed displeasure at the comments made at a recent county regional airport authority meeting that the authority is seeking about $50,000 more from the commissioners for next year's budget.

Graham said the commissioners have agreed to finance $500,000 in the local share of the $2 million cost of extending and widening the runway at the airport.

Graham said there are county workers laid off because of a lack of funding and the airport is requesting more money.

Earl Muenze, airport authority member, said the airport is suffering from a lack of rental for two hangars that were destroyed by a windstorm and then rebuilt. The access road and hangar area outside the hangars haven't been finished, he said.

Muenze said flights into the airport continue to increase and the airport needs better equipment, including snow removal and a new fuel tanker truck.

Maple said he has always pushed the airport as a key economic development tool in the county and for the airport to grow.

"Now it appears the commissioners are not supporting the airport. But we have to be fiscally sound and thoughtful," Maple said, adding he doesn't believe the operational cost of the airport should be placed on the backs of the taxpayers.

Graham said he wants the airport to become self-sufficient.

"We have moved a lot of money to get to that goal," he said.

The county auditor's office reported the county has supplied $780,000 to the airport in the past four years.

Commissioners also received an appraisal of the Towers on Market Street, prepared by Charles G. Snyder Co. of New Philadelphia. Commissioners paid $4,000 for the commercial appraisal.

Snyder said the building is worth between $1.3 million and $1.5 million.

A proposal was made for the county to purchase the building for $1.7 million to house county offices to save money on rent at other buildings.

A committee of business professionals was appointed by the commissioners to study the proposal.

Gentile said commercial appraisers have to meet state requirements.

"This should give the committee the information it needs to make a recommendation," Gentile said.

Maple said it was wise to get a professional appraisal.

Commissioners also:

Received the annual report from Probate/Juvenile Judge Sam Kerr.

Were informed the county's maximum payment the county has to make for treatment of children with medical handicaps is $115,373 for 2013. The county, under state law, is responsible for providing the treatment.

Approved a three-year contract with two county recorder's office employees, who are members of the Communication Workers of America Local 4527. The contract calls for a 3 percent raise each of the three years. Commissioners noted it will cost the recorder's office an additional $3,000 a year. The recorder's office has been busier than normal with all the gas and oil well lease research ongoing.

Agreed to advertise for bids for repavement work on county Road 15. The engineer's estimate is $734,375. County Engineer James Branagan said about 4.62 miles of the road will be resurfaced, which is about one-half of the length of the road from Smithfield to Rayland.

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