South School sold

MARTINS FERRY – The former South School will change hands again. It was announced during Wednesday’s county commissioners’ meeting that James Carson of Ohio River Properties will take possession of the structure from the county for $60,000 as soon as paperwork is completed.

“We took him down Friday. He viewed the building. He liked the building. He made us an offer. We will be receiving exactly what we paid,” said Commissioner Matt Coffland.

Coffland added that the price matches the $50,000 the county originally paid, plus the added funds that had already been put into the school to repair and renovate.

“That was our plans since the beginning of the year. We just had to wait until after the election to market it,” Coffland said. “We had quite a few people interested.”

He added that Carson plans to upgrade the property.

“That’s a win for all of us,” Coffland said. “I think its a win for Martins Ferry and it’s a win for the commissioners.”

He said the money will be returned to the senior services levy fund where it had been originally come from.

Port Authority Director Larry Merry said the building would be repaired and developed into space for businesses.

Martins Ferry officials reported they were pleased to know the building would be put to use again.

Mayor Paul Riethmiller said city leadership was initially nervous on hearing South School was for sale and the city was not selling it. However, they were excited to hear that a quality developer would be taking over the structure and rehabilitating it.

“That’s positive news for the city,” said Councilman Chris Cleary. “Anytime we’re able to turn over a property that’s not being used it’s a plus for the city.”

Dwayne Pielech, director of Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services, said space and price were deciding factors.

“It is in the best interests the community and taxpayers to sell the property to a private company that will pay property tax to the community and the school district and create private sector jobs that will pay income tax,” he said.

He added that his management staff has made commitments to Martins Ferry in the past several years.

“When Northern Court moved to Bellaire I decided to move 22 professional jobs to Martins Ferry to replace five court workers,” he said.

Pielech noted that his department had inherited the South School from a prior board and it did not fit into their long-term space needs. In addition, roofing and asbestos would have led to a cost of close to $270,000. Also, in renovating the structure his department would have had to rules for government facilities. A private company might find the project less costly.

DeFrank can be reached at