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County park grows

September 21, 2012
By MARK LAW - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Jefferson County commissioners on Thursday announced a $200,000 grant that will allow road, water and sewer work to open up an additional 26.5 acres of land at the county's industrial park.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said the grant is through the Ohio Mid-Eastern Government Association.

Ed Looman, Progress Alliance executive director, said county Engineer James Branagan estimated it will cost about $673,000 to install a road, water, sewer and storm-water sewer lines.

Graham and Looman said there are companies interested in the moving onto the 26.5 acres of land but the infrastructure needs to be in place first.

"It will really help with economic development in the county," Graham said.

In other matters, commissioners were approached by representatives of ELS Transportation about a public hearing to be held by the Columbiana County Port Authority concerning the restructuring of a bond that financed the purchase of railroad cars used to transport out-of-state garbage to the Apex Landfill in northern Jefferson County.

Graham and county Commissioner Tom Gentile gave approval for the public hearing to be held on the adjustments to the bond, but indicated they may vote against the restructuring of the bond.

Tony Cossentino, chief financial officer of ELS, and Russell Balthis, an attorney representing the company, asked the commissioners to give approval for the public hearing to be held at 10 a.m. on Oct. 1 at the Columbiana Port Authority office in East Liverpool.

The bond was issued in 2004 to Liberty Waste Transportation, now known as ELS, to purchase 1,400 steel boxes to transport garbage from the East Coast to Apex Landfill.

Commissioners voted to approve the public hearing to be held so residents can voice their displeasure over the odor complaints at the landfill and from the railroad cars used to transport the garbage.

"That landfill and the waste and sludge coming in from New Jersey pose an enormous problem and nuisance to Jefferson County," said Gentile. "People have to deal with the odor coming from the landfill."

Gentile said the garbage sits too long on the rail cars and causes an odor problem.

"It would be difficult to do anything (about the bond restructuring debt) until the odor problem is addressed. I will allow the the public hearing but I will be hard pressed to assist Apex Landfill," Gentile said.

Graham agreed, saying, "We have gotten so frustrated over the years with Apex that it will be hard to do anything to help them."

County Commissioner David Maple was absent from the meeting.

Commissioners also heard from Harry Andrews of county Road 46, Toronto, who has been against the county taking over the Smithfield water system.

Andrews asked the commissioners where the county is going to get the money to make improvements to the Smithfield water system once the transfer is completed.

Smithfield agreed to allow the takeover in exchange for the county forgiving upwards of $150,000 owed by the village for water purchased from the county.

Gentile said the takeover of the Smithfield water system is essential for the county expanding the water system in the south end of the county. He said it is difficult for homeowners to install a good well in the south end of the county because of prior coal mining operations. He said the county will have to look at installing a new water tank in Smithfield.

Gentile said the county expects to receive about $200,000 a year from the 400 customers in Smithfield. He said a percentage of the county's sales and use tax is set aside for water improvements. He said both sources of revenue can be used to finance improvements.

Graham said the county won't have to do all the improvements to the Smithfield water system at one time,

"It can be done on an as-needed basis," he said.

Graham said the county will not have to raise water rates for current county water customers when the Smithfield system is taken over by the county. He said taking over Smithfield's water system is not the best solution to the problem but it does open the opportunity to provide water to residents who have been asking for it for years.

Commissioners also:

Approved $28,220 in fees for attorneys of indigent criminal defendants to be submitted to the state for partial reimbursement.

Approved payment of $288,470 to Johnson Controls of Westerville for work done at various county buildings as part of a state-financed energy-savings program.

Approved the release of the final $9,000 to John Russell Construction of Steubenville for work on the county's new animal shelter. The final payment was being withheld in a dispute about landscaping work done at the shelter. The county hired a separate contractor to plant grass at the shelter.

Gentile commended the Jefferson County Humane Society for its work on getting dogs and cats at the shelter adopted. "Our goal is to make it as close to a no-kill facility as possible," Graham said.

Approved the annual update of the Jefferson County Local Emergency Planning Commission hazardous material response plan as required by Ohio law.

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