Commissioners consider funds

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Gerry Battistelli, oil and gas leasing agent, addressed commissioners during Wednesday’s meeting and presented an outline of a proposed reduced road and bridge fund.

He noted the county engineer’s hope of acquiring $500,000 from two $5 license plate fee increases, which was voted down by the board. Battistelli said he has looked into where funds could be taken to balance the burden on the taxpayers while addressing the deteriorating roads and bridges.

He suggested creating a part-permanent, part-temporary fund and to earmark monies in a non-discretionary way to reach the amount of money needed.

He said one $5 increase could be earmarked and placed in a fund controlled by the commissioners and designated for the most deteriorated roads.

He noted that that hotel and motel fund is one of the most liquid funds in the county. He asked if it was possible to transfer the funding from the hotel and motel tax to support the port authority consistent with practices in Jefferson County.

“There is a direct relationship between that hotel and motel tax and economic development,” he said, adding that people using the hotels and motels often take an interest in the economy. “If the economic development picks up, you’ll have more visitors.”

Commissioner Charles R. Probst, Jr. said the funds might not be available from the monies budget for tourism, but the issue could be looked at later.

Battistelli added that the county has about 144 leasable acres remaining, many of which are in the Children’s Home area.

Commissioner Ginny Favede said the board is currently in negotiations to attain a lease agreement on that property.

Battistelli noted that the county currently lacks the infrastructure and pipelines to draw gas. Current practices will likely involve tapping liquid rich areas, drilling some areas but capping others.

“You are in an extremely speculative industry,” he said, adding that the increased traffic will likely lead to further accidents, since Belmont County has the fifth worst roads in the state.

He said the interchange project has been ongoing for seven years, with no review for another two years. He said $2 million in the interchange could be used toward assistance on bridges and roads.

Favede clarified that tourism money is protected under the Ohio Revised Code and is designated for the tourism board of directors. She added that the tourism budget is currently set and their responsibilities include the Carnes Center. They are also considering committing fund to a sewer project at the fairgrounds. Much of their monies are tied for the next 10 years.

Commissioners will consider his information and suggestions in their search for options.

DeFrank can be reached at