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Port authority talks budget, new director

December 4, 2013
By MARK J. MILLER - Staff writer (mmiller@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

WINTERSVILLE - The Jefferson County Port Authority board discussed its 2014 budget and its new director during its meeting Tuesday at the Jefferson County Airpark.

Jay Zatta, board chairman, said the authority is excited to welcome Evan Scurti as the authority's executive director beginning Monday.

"Our organization has taken a giant step in hiring Evan Scurti," said Zatta.

Debbie Venci, board member and secretary, agreed.

"When discussing (the authority) people wanted to see a strong director in place and see if this would be successful," said Venci, adding Scurti will help with fundraising for the young organization. "Everybody's going to be jumping on board because it's a win-win situation for everyone."

Zatta told board members the 2014 budget anticipated revenue included $100,000 from the county and about $65,000 in private contributions.

"We think that (number) is going to be a little light," Zatta continued. "We think with Evan on board we'll be more proactive."

Board members discussed the upcoming budget, with "the salaries and payroll taxes being the biggest expense," Zatta said of the proposed budget. "We just don't know what our (legal) expenses will be. We need to get more private and government contributions. (Our budget) is tight."

Venci agreed, adding the authority needed to pursue foundation and other grant sources for funding. She added businesses currently in the Jefferson County Industrial Park also could be a source for funds.

"I'd like to see them come on board (as investors)," she said, adding the authority currently is in the black with vendor, payroll and pension payments up to date.

"I'd like to thank our search committee (for choosing Scurti)," continued Zatta, who complimented board members involved in the search for the new director.

Dave Maple, Jefferson County commissioner, said commissioners were "very, very pleased" with the selection of Scurti.

Board members also discussed organizing a meet-and-greet event where the public could meet Scurti. Members agreed to wait until January to schedule a date.

In other matters:

Members discussed using attorney Bill Blake to seek companies seeking oil and gas leasing rights in Jefferson County.

"We have multiple parcels here," said Zatta. "(Shale exploitation) would bring significant (revenue) to the county, and I'm excited about that."

Greg Nemeth, board member, said he believes the authority should use more than just one individual to find possible businesses interested in shale and oil drilling, and the current rate for gas and mineral rights in Jefferson County is about $6,800 to $7,000 an acre.

"Rayland just signed (to a company) two days ago," said Nemeth, adding the amount was around that amount.

The board held a lengthy discussion about the subject as well as wetland regulations that could impede some sites from being considered for shale exploitation. The board also agreed any board member with contacts to potential businesses interested in shale drilling should share that information with the board. Rob D'Anniballe, board member, remarked he sees growth to Jefferson County coming more from the growth of existing businesses due to any county shale play.

Maple suggested the county's oil and gas committee, the county chamber and the authority should be communicating to prevent conflicts and overlapping interests concerning shale exploitation. D'Anniballe agreed, adding cooperation between the three agencies should be ongoing.

"I think this is one of those things where it's an integrated process in place that's going to be instinctive," he said.

Maple said while surrounding counties have experienced the boom, Jefferson County was experiencing "a slower ramp up." He added that could be an advantage because the county would have time to get structures in place for exploitation.

"It's coming, and it will get here," Maple said of the shale play.

The board made it's recommendations for officers for 2014, and they included D'Anniballe as board chairman; Derek Ferguson as vice chairman; Ed Florak as treasurer; and Gary Cain as secretary. The positions will be voted upon the authority's first meeting in 2014, scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 7 in the Jefferson County Airpark conference room.

 
 

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