YORKVILLE U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson met with Mayor Blair Closser and members of Yorkville village council Tuesday to gather information and get a progress update regarding Esmark (formerly the Wheeling-Pittsburgh steel plant).
Jerry Conners, president of the local United Steel Workers, and Jim Tennant, president of the Ohio Coatings Co., also attended. Esmark closed in late 2011, but interest in re-opening the facility has remained strong. Currently, 10 people work there as a fire-prevention crew, but Closser hopes to get 250 people back to work at the plant.
Council has spoken previously to state senators Lou Gentile and Jack Cera and Gov. John Kasich, but with attention largely focused on Hannibal's Ormet Corp. closure, Esmark has faded into the background.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson listens to Yorkville council while Ohio Coatings Co. President Jim Tennant (left) and USW President Jerry Conners look on.
Closser stressed that re-opening Esmark would benefit the area economically.
"It just makes sensewhen you have Ohio Coatings, an $88 million dollar plant that's producing tin coating, and you only have to go a half-mile up the road to get the black plates, it's business sense," Closser said. "Why would you want to transport to other areas?"
Johnson listened to council's report on the lack of progress and promised to do what he could to bring attention to the issue.
"I'm not a state official, but I will certainly see what I can do to get some feedback from the governor's staff," he said. "We'll continue to engage with this process. If I were king for a day it would be different, but that's not the way our system works. I'm going to fight hard for the jobs here."
Council also discussed a potential hydroelectric power plant project with Johnson. Councilman Ron Emerson said that council had been under the impression that American Municipal Power (AMP), based out of Columbus, was attached. However, council received a notice from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that the city of Oberlin, Ohio would be involved instead. Emerson said they received correspondence that Oberlin had been denied a preliminary permit. Council is seeking answers as to who is actually involved in the project and how they can move forward.
"The first thing we need to find out is if they are really back in the game, or if this is a case of one hand not talking to the other. We owe you some answers," said Johnson.
Any new jobs would be welcomed in Yorkville, which has lost $27,000 in state funding, and $12,000 in county funding to allow for a new police cruiser to be purchased every few years. Closser lamented that council is being forced to turn to residents for village funding.
"That has been my concern, and that's one of the reasons why I ran for Congress in the first place. It seems like Appalachia Ohio is oftentimes at the back of everybody's mind in Columbus, and even further back in Washington, D.C. I'm trying to change that," said Johnson.
After leaving Yorkville, Johnson traveled to Rayland where Buckeye Local High School was hosting an event titled, "Managing Threatening Situations: Creating Safe School Climates." Special Tactics and Rescue Training (START), a team which offers programs to teach faculty and staff measures on safety and evacuation, finished a presentation before Johnson spoke. He emphasized how important school safety is in the wake of shootings that are becoming too common and answered questions from people attending the training.
"School should be a place that our children can go to and not have to worry about being harmed. They can't focus on their education if they're worried about who might walk in through the door or what might happen to them when they're there," he said. Johnson praised START CEO Frank Hoagland for his knowledge and expertise in security.
Buckeye Local Superintendent Mark Miller commented that the event was an opportunity for school administration and staff to learn the latest strategies in safety, and to draw more attention to the importance of school safety and the partnership with START.
Warner may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.