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County: Clock ticking on Towers building

April 12, 2013
By MARK LAW - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Jefferson County commissioners Thursday said the clock is officially ticking for the purchase of the Towers building.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said the prosecutor's office approved a purchase agreement between the county and Tower Reality, the owner of the building.

Commissioners agreed last month to purchase the Towers building at 500 Market St. for $750,000, plus $100,000 for four adjacent parking lots.

Graham said both sides now have 90 days to close the deal.

Commissioners next week are expected to be presented with financing rates for the building's purchase.

Commissioners want to move other county offices into the Towers. The county already is paying rent at the building for county offices.

Graham said the county appointed a committee to study the purchase of the building, which met for about a year before returning with a positive recommendation.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile said he wants the county's port authority to work with the commissioners on leasing office space at the building to private companies.

County Commissioner David Maple said he hopes the county's citizens understand the county has thoroughly studied the purchase.

Commissioner asked county Engineer James Branagan to study the lighting on county Road 22A in a section where two pedestrians were struck by vehicles, with one person dying as a result, in February and March.

Branagan said the county is looking at work being done on the road with federal funding assistance. He said there isn't a lot of pedestrian traffic crossing the five-lane road.

Branagan said the county has more than 260 miles of county roads and none have streetlights, but he added that section is the only one with five lanes.

"We'll do a study, and we may incorporate (lighting) into the design," he said.

Commissioners also approved pay increases for union and nonunion workers at the county Job and Family Services Department. The 85 members of the Communication Workers of America, Local 4527, will receive 2 percent pay increases each of the three years of a new contract. Nonunion members, about 19, also will receive the same pay raise, said Elizabeth Ferron, county Job and Family Services director.

Maple said there are good employees at the department who agreed to work for a period without a pay raise. He said the department's budget can handle the pay increase.

The commissioners were informed by the Ohio Development Services Agency of the county's allocation for Community Development Block Grant funds. The county will receive $168,000, down from $227,000 received last year. The grant pays for street and other improvements in communities in areas with low- and moderate-income residents.

Commissioners received the annual report from the county water and sewer department. Highlights include sewer projects in the Pottery Addition and Crestview-Belvedere areas. The department reported total revenue of nearly $6 million, with $2 million being used to purchase water. Only $327,068 was used for payroll expenses. The department reported $1.3 million was used to pay debt for loans on projects.

Commissioners heard a recommendation from Shannan Gosbin, county water and sewer director, that the engineering firm of Malcolm Pirnie of Sewickley, Pa., be hired as the engineering firm for the design of the water tower repairs at county tanks in Bergholz and East Springfield. Three engineering firms submitted requests and two firms were interviewed. Malcolm Pirnie is the firm that county is currently using.

Commissioners also:

Approved a request from the county Regional Airport Authority to appoint Geno L. Morelli of Wintersville to a full, four-year term, on the board. Morelli was appointed to an unexpired term,

Agreed to provide $25,000 to the Friendship Park Board for operations. Branagan, who also serves on the park board, said additional money is needed to complete work on the sewage project and campground construction at the park.

Opened one bid for grass cutting for the engineer's department. The estimate was $35,000 for three cuttings throughout the summer months. Quick Mow of Millersburg submitted a bid of $33,992.

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