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BDC property purchase was top news


December 30, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

The Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle in November emerged as the new owner of the 600-plus acre Wheeling Corrugating property in Beech Bottom, a complicated transaction weeks in development.

The deal gives the BDC control of the massive property, which includes 150 acres of prime, developable flatlands fronting the Ohio River as well as some 480,000 square feet of fully infrastructured warehouse space already under roof.

State Route 2 LLC, a Hackman subsidiary, purchased the property out of bankruptcy from the now-defunct RG Steel, and immediately signed over the land - and with it, responsibility for environmental legacy issues there - to the BDC. State Route 2 LLC retained the rights to the equipment that's on the property. They'll work together to market it.

BDC Executive Director Pat Ford described it as "a gem" of a property, a rare development opportunity in the heavily industrialized Northern Panhandle. As a nonprofit, the BDC has access to state and federal funds to remediate contaminants on the site, money Hackman couldn't leverage on its own.

Ford said the BDC anted up $200,000 to buy the land rights from State Route 2 LLC, which has an option to harvest all of the equipment. He said the chain of title for environmental contaminant liability "goes from RG directly to the BDC, so we're on the hook for any liability," Ford said.

"But we're doing it with our eyes wide open," he added.

In other news in November:

The nine-member Jefferson County Port Authority discussed future funding and collaboration efforts with the Community Improvement Corp. and heard Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham hint at a future reduction in funding for the Progress Alliance economic development agency.

The authority members and ex-officio members at the meeting agreed all economic development agencies in the county need to be combined in the future.

But seeing a single agency become a reality was the subject of intense conversation.

"Today is about getting this thing organized. The collaborative approach is the best approach. I thought we should have had a port authority years ago. This is now real and this is what we can do for the future," Port Authority Board Chairman Jay Zatta announced as he opened the monthly meeting.

The dissolution of Progress Alliance was accelerated by the resignation of Executive Director Ed Looman, who announced he'd accepted a position as Eastern Ohio project manager with JobsOhio.

A two-hour hearing on Nov. 1 ended with Jefferson County Juvenile Court retaining jurisdiction over two Steubenville High School student-athletes charged with rape.

Visiting Judge Tom Lipps said while the juveniles are mature enough for the case to be transferred to adult court. But, he said, weighing all the factors, the juveniles charged should remain in the juvenile court system. He also ruled that the juveniles, held at the detention center since their arrest, could be released under house arrest.

Charged with rape are Trent Mays, 16, of Bloomingdale and Malik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville. Mays also faces a charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.

The alleged rape occurred during the overnight hours of Aug. 11-12 and involved a girl who witnesses said was highly intoxicated.

The five-year Steubenville operating levy was renewed by city voters on Nov. 6 by an unofficial 4,645 to 3,176 vote margin.

City Manager Cathy Davison characterized passage of the 5-mill levy as a "a vote of confidence on the transparency of our city council and administration."

The levy, initiated in the early 1960s, has been renewed every five years since. Davison said the levy, which remains based on real estate valuations from the early 1960s, generates $575,000 a year for the city's general fund and accounts for approximately 5 percent of the general fund budget.

Lou Gentile of Steubenville won election to the 30th District state Senate seat he was appointed to 11 months ago, defeating Republican challenger Shane Thompson of St. Clairsville in a highly contested race.

According to the Ohio Secretary of State's official Website Gentile, the Democratic incumbent unofficially garnered 76,164 votes, while Thompson garnered 68,102 votes.

Retired Secret Service Agent Clint Hill and journalist Lisa McCubbin were joined by nearly 1,000 people on Nov. 14 for the inaugural lecture in the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Lecture and Concert Series for a discussion on Hill's four-year assignment to protect former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

The event was held in the Steubenville High School auditorium.

The lecture featured McCubbin asking Hill questions and Hill recalling details of the Kennedy family that were at times funny, moving and, finally, very sad.

Hill described his initial reluctance to accept the assignment to provide protection for the first lady.

Retired area businessman Jody Glaub recited a history of Steubenville and asked a large crowd attending the eighth-annual Faith in the Future breakfast if, "our faith in God will remain?"

Glaub was the keynote speaker on Nov. 16 at the annual event held at the Starkdale Presbyterian Church.

The JB Green Team board agreed on Nov. 19 to pursue possible criminal charges against the Apex Landfill as well as a civil lawsuit claiming a breach of contract.

The decision to pursue legal action against the landfill operations came during a 70-minute executive session that had been called to discuss, "contract issues and personnel."

Board Chairman Bob Chapman said the landfill was roughly $390,000 in arrears on its tipping fees. John Mascio Jr., legal counsel for the JB Green Team, said he'd been instructed "to send a letter to the Jefferson County prosecutor's office seeking their opinion on possible criminal charges against the landfill. "

The landfill paid the late tipping fees later that month.

Construction got under way on the 80-room, $6 million-plus Microtel Inn & Suites in Steubenville, a project owner Bill Williams sees as a community catalyst.

Williams, a Charleston, W.Va., native, said the four-story structure should be done by late summer 2013.

A tanker barge loaded with a million gallons of natural gas liquids from a tank farm in the Half Moon Industrial Park is on its way to Houston a "significant milestone" in the Weirton port's development, officials said Thursday.

The natural gas liquids, otherwise known as "wet gas," was from locally drilled wells in the Marcellus and Utica shale, and had been stored at a tank farm in Half Moon.

On Nov. 25, the gases were loaded onto the tanker barge and towed down the Ohio River, reaching the Mississippi River on Dec. 2. Weirton Area Port Authority Chief Operating Officer Nicole Balakos said its final destination "is further south (in) Houston."

The first phase of a multi-million sewage system upgrade in Weirton's north end got under way, Utilities Director A.D. "Butch" Mastrantoni said.

That work, being done by James White Construction inside ArcelorMittal facilities along County Road, involves laying about 4,700 lineal feet of gravity sewer to route sanitary flow from roughly 1,000 structures along Pennsylvania Avenue and nearby neighborhoods up old Main Street to the 5th Street Lift Station, which is on mill property.

Phase II will take the sanitary flow from the lift station through a new 16-inch main to the Freedom Way treatment plant, where it will be properly treated and then released into the Ohio River.

A ceramic mural depicting Trinity Health System's mission in the community was dedicated by Bishop Jeffrey Monforton.

The mural, installed in the Gill Lobby of Trinity Medical Center West, was a gift of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Trinity's sponsor organization since 1960. Sister Jane Mary Sorosiak, a member of their community, designed the mural and, with the help of Sister Margaret Hall, made each individual piece.

The mural, which took more than 12 months to complete, measures 25-by-16 feet and was installed on the east wall of the Gill Lobby.

Mingo Junction Council unanimously voted to terminate the contract of Charley Bowman as village administrator on Nov. 27, just seven weeks after he was hired.

Councilman John Bracone, who made the motion to terminate the contract, said Bowman didn't want to work with council and "was going behind our back," while Councilman Jack Brettell complained that Bowman was trying to override everything council wanted to do and had tried to reprimand a village employee without first coming to council.

Bowman, hired Oct. 9, was to have been paid $30,000 a year.

He had been working with Clerk John Angelica to prepare a budget for the village, which Bowman said was facing a fiscal emergency come 2014. Council members said council will work with Angelica to prepare the budget, which will be 40 percent less than the current budget.

School levies didn't fare well in the Nov. 6 general election.

Indian Creek voters turned thumbs down to a 4.95-mill combination levy/bond issue, the second time the measure was rejected. Had it passed, a 3.5-mill bond issue would have generated about $16.3 million for construction of a new district high school and a 1.45-mill, five-year operating levy for district operations.

Voters in the Buckeye Local School District, which includes parts of Jefferson, Harrison and Belmont counties, turned down a 2-mill continuing improvement levy that would have funded basic operations and improvements in the school district, including the purchase of books and buses, building maintenance, equipment, renovations, computers and more. The levy would have raised an estimated $500,000 annually, with no expiration date for it.

Edison Local voters defeated a 9.45-mill operating levy for district operations for the second time, prompting Superintendent Bill Beattie to warn that the cuts they must make "will be much deeper and harsher than in the past."

The Jefferson County Joint Vocational School also faces cuts in staffing as well as spending after voters again said no to the district's request for an additional 1-mill operating levy, the fourth time they've voted it down.

The possibility of a state grant for cleanup of an industrial site in Yorkville was discussed by Jefferson County commissioners in November.

Domenick Mucci, director of the Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission, told commissioners the agency was applying for a $1 million cleanup grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's CleanOhio fund for cleanup of soil contamination at the former RG Steel Co.'s Yorkville plant. Mucci told commissioners although competition for the grant fund was fierce, he believed Ohio Gov. John Kasich's visit to the plant site in October was a good sign for obtaining the grant funds.

Esmark Steel purchased the plant in October, and its plans to reopen an idled cold-rolling mill in Yorkville hinge on obtaining the grant funds for cleanup of the site.

Stratton residents got a close-up look at the newly constructed Veterans Memorial Park during a dedication service attended by hundreds of citizens on Veterans Day. The monument includes five stones in a circle around a flagpole flying the American, Ohio and POW/MIA flags. The monument, situated in front of the village Municipal Building, contains the names of more than 350 war veterans from Stratton, Empire, Goose Run, Port Homer and Sugar Grove.

Hundreds of Toronto residents gathered at the gazebo to celebrate light-up night on Nov. 20 in Toronto.

In addition to lighting the city's Christmas tree, memorial luminaria were distributed, and there were songs and presentation of a $1,803 check to the Salvation Army's home-heating assistance program.

The ceremony was sponsored by the city chamber, and the $1,803 donated to the Salvation Army was the most the chamber ever raised for the project.

Hundreds of Mingo Junction residents gathered on Commercial Avenue on Nov. 26 evening to usher in the holiday season with the lighting of the village Christmas tree. The event included speakers, Christmas carols and a performance by the Indian Creek High School Marching Band.

A computer glitch at the Jefferson County Board of Elections delayed vote tabulations on Nov. 6, but officials with the board of elections said the problem was recognized early in the vote-counting process.

The computer system was unable to combine absentee or early voting tallies with the Election Day results, so the board had to post the totals separately. There was a 66 percent voter turnout in Jefferson County.

The two incumbents won their bid for re-election to the Jefferson County Commission.

Incumbent Commissioner Tom Gentile, a Democrat, was re-elected to a second term in office, defeating Billy Petrella, a non-partisan candidate making his first foray into politics.

Incumbent David Maple, meanwhile, was elected to his third term as commissioner, easily outdistancing his Democratic rival, Robert Steve Vukelic.

Jefferson County commissioners awarded contracts for the Brilliant booster station and water line improvement contract on Nov. 29 even though one of the contracts exceeded the engineer's estimate.

The engineer's estimate for the project was $4.3 million for three separate contracts under the project. The three contracts as bid totalled $3.1 million.

Ohio-West Virginia Excavating of Powhatan Point bid $673,000 for the construction of the booster station building. Fort Steuben Maintenance of Steubenville was awarded the $662,500 contract for electrical work on the booster station building, while Precision Pipeline of Lancaster was awarded the contract for the installation of water lines in the amount of $1,768,078.

Gosbin said construction should start in January, with completion in about nine months.

A new pump house will be built in Brilliant and 24,000 feet of 10-inch water lines will be installed from the pump station to the water tower in New Alexandria. Gosbin said the current pump station was intended to serve 450 customers, but now serves 1,200 customers.

The county also reached an agreement to take over the Smithfield water system, which will be fed with water from the new pump station and water lines. The commissioners have requests from numerous residents in the southern end of the county to tie into the county water system, including the Bradley area outside Smithfield.

A former county coroner's office investigator who stole a credit card from a man killed in an auto accident in 2008 and was sentenced to nine months in prison couldn't convince Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. to seal his record.

Bruzzese overruled the motion, filed by David Workman, 57, to prevent anyone but police from seeing his conviction.

Court records indicate Workman took a credit card from the effects of a Richmond motorcyclist killed when a pickup truck went left of center and hit him head-on, then used it to run up a $430 bill at a Weirton strip club.

Workman, who pleaded guilty to theft in office, was fired by then Jefferson County Coroner Dr. John Metcalf when the theft was discovered.

Workman's attorney, Lynsey Lyle-Opalenik, told Bruzzese the offense was Workman's only conviction and said he's having difficulty finding a good job because of his felony record.

Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin, however, said the prosecutor's office normally doesn't object to sealing a defendant's record if the person was young and made a youthful mistake, but said the public- particularly a future employer - has a right to know about Workman's offense.

Hanlin said the victim's family spent months getting the charge removed from his credit card.

Aaron M. Hartley, 21, of Wellsburg was sentenced to 20 years in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree robbery for entering a Hooverson Heights home and striking the elderly couple there in an attempt to rob them in May 2011.

First Judicial Circuit Court Judge Ronald Wilson ordered Hartley to serve 10 years on each count and specified that his attorney not seek a modification of his sentence while the couple was alive and he had served at least the first 10-year sentence and paid $500 restitution for medical bills.

The latter condition was prompted by a request by the couple, both 87, that he not be eligible for parole while they are alive.

Many gathered at Brooke Hills Park for the dedication of the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park on Veterans Day.

A granite wall erected there bears the names of 186 local veterans who died while serving in military conflicts and 27 who were prisoners of war, as well as 267 pavers on which the names of loved ones were inscribed in exchange for a donation for the $171,000 project.

Keynote speaker was Brooke County Prosecutor David B. Cross, whose father was killed in action during World War II. Also on hand were Marianne Smith, mother of Marine Lance Cpl. Michael J. Smith's Jr., who was killed in Iraq, and Anita Hone of Weirton, mother of Army Sgt. C.J. McClain, who was killed in Afghanistan.

The park includes a monument to Smith, whose death inspired the park; ledgers representing Flanders Field and Arlington Cemetery and a bronze sculpture created by Canadian artist Tim Schmalz.

About 25 Hancock County residents gathered on Nov. 24 at Newell Memorial Field to protest the county board of education's decision not to sell the abandoned field to the Chester Volunteer Fire Department.

The fire department had offered $150,000 - less than the $250,000 minimum bid set for the 4.25-acre property. The board also turned down subsequent offers of $250,000 and $300,000 submitted by the city of Chester on the fire department's behalf.

School officials said the board may sell the field to a public agency, but the fire department under state law doesn't qualify as a public agency.

Hancock County commissioners later purchased it and the Jimmy Carey Stadium in Weirton for $400,000. Commissioners say both properties, no longer needed by the board of education, will be marketed for economic development.

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