Ferry’s 2020 highlight: EORH getting purchased
MARTINS FERRY — The city of Martins Ferry was able to accomplish a lot and keep its budget out of the red all while dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Mayor John Davies said the largest accomplishment for the community as a whole was that East Ohio Regional Hospital was purchased.
The new owner, Dayton-based psychiatrist Dr. John Johnson, plans to reopen the facility sometime in January. It closed last fall after its previous owner, Alecto Healthcare Services of Irvine, California, shut it down, citing a lack of finances to keep it running.
To help the new owner with infrastructure needs, the city created an income tax agreement with EORH that calls for giving back 75 percent of the income tax generated by its workers after the facility reopens.
Meanwhile, the biggest challenge for the city during 2020 was the impact of the pandemic. During the summer one city worker became infected after a beach trip. That employee recovered, but several other members of the city workforce had to quarantine for two weeks as a precaution.
This forced other departments to chip in and help collect residents’ trash for a few days until the workers could come back on the job. Davies and Water Superintendent Bill Suto helped with the collections as well during that time.
The city’s budget also was suffering. Davies, at first, believed he might have to lay off some street department employees. However, after moving most of the workers to the water department he was able to avoid mandatory layoffs.
“We’ve stayed within the budget and ended the year fairly decent,” Davies said. “We’re in good shape.”
Davies said he did not have the numbers in hand, but he estimated the general fund would end the year between $340,000 and $350,000 in the black.
Another accomplishment, he noted, was getting more Ohio 647 slip repairs completed with help from the Ohio Department of Transportation. The city also replaced two major waterlines last year — one on Delaware Street and another on Zane Highway.
The city also was able to purchase some new equipment for its workers in 2020, including two new ambulances and dump trucks.
For 2021, Davies said the city likely will repeat its efforts to help feed residents as the COVID-19 virus continues to surge. Early on in the pandemic, the city asked for donations of food that it redistributed to anyone in need. This was done because so many people had either been laid off, lost their jobs or had their work hours reduced during government shutdowns of “non-essential” businesses in Ohio.
Davies said the city would like to do it again, but officials need to figure out how to do it safely. Previously so much food was donated that it filled up the mayor’s office, leaving little room to sit or do paperwork. He said there is other office space now available that can be used.
The food distribution effort was done jointly with Grace Presbyterian Church and Project Forward, a committee formed to revitalize the downtown after a 2016 fire destroyed several businesses. Grace’s pastor, the Rev. William Webster, is still recovering from a hard bout of COVID-19 himself. Webster, Davies said, needs time to feel better before he could help coordinate another effort.
“Martins Ferry takes care of Martins Ferry. Our citizens take care of the less fortunate,” he said.
Also in 2021, Davies said the city will get back to more repaving projects, cemetery upgrades, keeping the weeds on Ohio 7 cut and keeping the city, in general, cleaned up. Additional efforts will be made to tear down blighted structures. And the city, he said, will pursue some historic structure funding to replace the roof on the city building that is more than 100 years old.