Columbus - State Sen. Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) Tuesday expressed his strong opposition to closing the Jerry L. Stewart Mine Safety Training Center and called on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to work with the Village of Cadiz to keep the facility open.
ODNR Director James Zehringer recently acknowledged his agency is considering shutting down the training center and moving the existing offices to another location. ODNR has not announced plans to reconstruct a new mine training facility.
"The safety of Ohio's coal miners should be a top priority and closing this facility would be a mistake," said Sen. Gentile. "I've written to Gov. Kasich calling on him to direct ODNR to reconsider its plans to close the Mine Safety Training Center. This facility provides hands-on training that is incredibly important to saving lives if a disaster should strike one of Ohio's coal mines."
The Stewart Mine Safety Training Center was designed and built in response to the Sago mine disaster in West Virginia that left a dozen miners dead.
The Cadiz facility is equipped with a training simulator that enables miners from Ohio and neighboring states to practice safety procedures outside the classroom.
"Besides the training center's safety benefits, it represents an important economic engine in Harrison County," said Sen.Gentile. "The training center provides good jobs and helps support local businesses by bringing hundreds of coal miners to the area, many of whom stay in local hotels and eat in local restaurants."
ODNR officials have cited potential code violations at the Cadiz facility as a reason for closing the training center. However, as Sen. Gentile pointed out in a letter to Governor Kasich, "the alleged code violations have never been raised before as a concern, despite the fact that over the past four and a half years, hundreds of miners have undergone on-site training."
Sen. Gentile has stated he is willing to work with ODNR and the Village of Cadiz to address any concerns about the current building to ensure the training center remains at its current location.