Getting on the same page

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Belmont County Commissioners met with the Belmont County Port Authority Board in a special informational meeting Thursday. Topics for discussion included the need for better communication between the two agencies.

Martin Gould, chairman of the Port?Authority board, said communication and coordination was vital in this crucial time of economic development when new business interests are looking to the area.

“Things are moving so fast in the county right now with the oil and gas industry,” he said. “Our communication with the county commissioners, I think has been somewhat lax as far as the direction that the board is moving.”

He noted one instance of a proposed injection well that would have been installed at the East Ohio Regional Industrial Park and the issues that surrounded it. He said the board was unsure of the reasons for the commissioners’ opposition. Gould gave the opinion that the well would have been financially and environmentally safe.

Commissioner Matt Coffland said he was concerned the transportation and storage of out of state water would wear down the county’s infrastructure while failing to offer sufficient financial benefit locally. Coffland noted that he had represented the commissioners in attendance at numerous board meetings and development projects.

Board Member Dwayne Pielech raised some doubts about the wisdom of taking other states’ fracking water before the county has begun reaping oil and gas jobs.

He agreed about the importance of communication between board members and between board and commissioners.

Gould also pointed out the importance of staying coordinated in order to keep their information on the Web site current. He added that the Port Authority’s bylaws may also require updating.

Board Member Scott Mazulli brought up the issue of what tax abatements could be offered to businesses inquiring into operating locally. Port Authority Director Larry Merry agreed that a system for providing a quick response needed to be in place, since such questions often require the input of school board and municipalities.

“That’s how these projects happen. They happen quickly. They want your response quickly,” he said.

Coffland said the county auditor has advised placing a wide range of incentive possibilities before new interests in the initial application phase.

Commissioner Ginny Favede added that the county was in a strong bargaining position due to its wealth of resources.

Commissioner Charles R. Probst Jr. noted that the Fox Commerce Park was full and the commissioners were looking into the possibility of another park of possibly 200 acres.

Merry listed numerous activities the port authority had been involved with during the past year, including facilitating property sales in Martins Ferry totaling $675,000 for expansion and new business with an expected 75 jobs brought in. He also mentioned the sale of South School, now available for office space, and the establishment of National Lime and Stone in Martins Ferry and Bellaire.

He pointed out that the Port Authority has assisted in the purchase of the U.S. Armory site in Bellaire, which is now being leased for a rail service and may be purchased in the future, creating 73 new jobs.

Merry mentioned the transfer and sale of other properties, and economic development such as awarding waterline construction projects. The port authority is also circulating information about the oil and gas industry. They helped facilitate on oil and gas agreement for Martins Ferry totaling $729,434.97.

The agencies will continue to meet regarding future development opportunities.

DeFrank can be reached at