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Officials to support East Ohio Hospital LLC

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Martins Ferry Mayor John Davies speaks Wednesday about the city’s efforts to support the new owners of the former East Ohio Regional Hospital building and asks what assistance the county can offer.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Board of Commissioners pledged to support the new medical facility to be housed in the former East Ohio Regional Hospital building on Wednesday.

The hospital closed in September. This past Sunday, it was announced that East Ohio Hospital LLC had purchased the site. The building is expected to reopen by the end of the year.

Officials from the city of Martins Ferry, including Mayor John Davies and Water Superintendent Bill Suto, spoke about the importance of supporting the venture. Davies said Martins Ferry had agreed to provide a tax incentive and abatements and inquired about the commissioners’ involvement in efforts to find a new owner and what further help could be available.

“We had a lot of skin in the game, trying to get these people back,” Martins Ferry Water Superintendent Bill Suto said, pointing out other efforts such as possibly a discounted water and utility rate. “What can Belmont County do to put some skin in the game and keep these people?”

Commissioner J.P. Dutton said the commissioners had been conducting talks with the previous owners and potential buyers since before the hospital’s closure.

“There were interested parties that were looking at the hospital,” Dutton said, adding the commissioners engaged with state and federal officials about the hospital’s status. “Obviously those deals didn’t come to fruition before the hospital closed its doors.”

He added the commissioners have had talks with the purchasing group since last year.

“It wasn’t because of the Belmont County commission that property was purchased, but we’ve tried to engage with all parties as much as possible,” Dutton added. “At the end of the day, we want to see that hospital open.”

Davies inquired if any additional incentives are available.

“Now that that hospital is going to be open, is there a possibility that the commissioners can push to get JobsOhio money to help?” he asked. “We worked hard to get the hospital open. The long-term of keeping it open is where problems are going to begin.”

“We will help with any type of funding that can possibly come through here,” Dutton said. “You have our complete support on any proposal that needs to go to a state official.”

Commissioner Josh Meyer said grant assistance could be available. He said there likely will be startup costs beyond the purchase.

“I know there’s a lot of equipment. The chillers are in poor condition down there. I know all the radiology equipment is not there. I know there’s a lot of things that go into operating a hospital that are very expensive,” Meyer said.

Martins Ferry Service Director Andy Sutak, a former county auditor, also talked about the importance of the project, adding that 500-600 jobs eventually could result when the hospital building reopens.

In other matters, renovations continue at a building on U.S. 40 formerly belonging to The Health Plan, which will house the county courts and prosecutor’s office. The completion date remains Dec. 4, circumstances permitting.

“A lot of work is being done,” Dutton said. “It will be a great addition to facilities in Belmont County.”

Richard Hord of Martins Ferry asked if the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed progress on a potential ethane cracker plant that could be coming to the Dillies Bottom area. Dutton said uncertainty caused by the pandemic has complicated and slowed all ventures, but he does not believe the final decision will change.

“Personally, I have the same amount of confidence (as) prior to the pandemic,” Dutton said.

“I think it’ll still happen,” Commissioner Jerry Echemann said. “The big thing now is the financing package.”

He and Dutton said the pandemic has been disruptive to entities such as banks and lenders. Developers PTT Global Chemical and Daelim Chemical USA have said they are working to secure funding for the project before announcing a final investment decision.

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