Commissioners’ town hall set for Thursday

Martins Ferry library hosting open event

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Pease Township Trustee Michael Bianconi speaks to Belmont County Commissioners Josh Meyer, from left, J.P. Dutton and Jerry Echemann during their meeting last Wednesday. Bianconi frequently attends the Wednesday morning meetings, but at 6 p.m. Thursday the commissioners will hold a town hall meeting at the Martins Ferry Public Library to hear from and speak to residents along the Ohio River.

MARTINS FERRY — The Belmont County Board of Commissioners will convene a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Martins Ferry Public Library.

All are welcome, and the commissioners said they hope residents of Martins Ferry and the surrounding communities will attend to ask questions and hear more about county concerns.

“We expect to get a lot of good feedback from the public like we always do,” Commissioner Josh Meyer said. “It’s always nice to go around different parts of the county and have these forums. … It’s a good time to get out information to people who may not be able to get to our regular meetings.”

Meyer added that the commissioners held a town hall meeting in Martins Ferry last year; about 20 people attended.

“Last year we did Powhatan, we did Martins Ferry and we did Barnesville,” he said.

“It’s always been very informative in the past, and I think that will continue,” Martins Ferry resident Richard Hord, an organizer of the town hall, said. “I think since it’s going to be at Martins Ferry, there’s going to be some concerns expressed as to how the county commissioners may be able to help the city of Martins Ferry economically. There are questions. This might be a good opportunity to ask those questions and get answers in a public setting.”

Hord said employment is among the topics on residents’ minds.

“I think mostly in Martins Ferry are the economic issues. They’ve been trying very diligently to bring new business into the area. They’re working hard with that. They’ve been working with the port authority and Community Improvement Corporation and Project Forward, spearheading that along with the Chamber of Commerce, but it’s not easy to encourage new businesses to the area.”

He added that word is getting out and that he hopes for good attendance.

“A lot of folks are just not able to make it to the meetings because they have a conflict with their work schedule. To have this in the evening here in Martins Ferry would be a good opportunity for those who would be available,” Hord said. “It’s not just for Martins Ferry residents. It’s for anyone in the county to attend. We appreciate the commissioners for their accessibility.”

This will be the first such event for Commissioner Jerry Echemann, who is serving his first term. He said he is preparing to be quizzed about ongoing business.

“I think it’s good that we’re doing it. It’ll be my first,” Echemann said. “It’s in my hometown, so I don’t have far to go. … Most of what I hear from the people of Martins Ferry is the roads, things like that. A lot of time they address city issues, and it’s hard for the commissioners to address things that are solely city government, but hopefully the mayor and some council people will be there. If there’s a question we can’t answer, they can chime in.”

Commissioner J.P. Dutton said he looks forward to discussing economics and the county budget.

“We encourage folks to come out and ask as many questions as they want,” he said.