WEIRTON - Weirton Area Port Authority intends to challenge its recent dissolution by the West Virginia Public Port Authority, Chairman B.J. DeFelice said.
DeFelice told council Monday WAPA believes the state panel violated procedures spelled out in a "Powers & Duties" resolution passed in 1999 as well as a 2012 operating agreement. Both require the WVPPA to advise the local port group in advance of termination and stipulate a reason for the action, he said.
He said they still haven't received the letter officially notifying them of the state board's decision.
"Until that letter comes, we'll continue to operate as a port authority, a political subdivision like we have been," he said. "We're also discussing the option to fully privatize, working directly with the state."
He said WAPA's challenge is separate from any action Tri-State Port Management, the port's money making entity, might take.
City Solicitor Vince Gurrera declined comment, saying city officials were "going to wait for direction from the state."
"As far as we're aware, we've done everything we can to cooperate with the state's investigation and we will continue to follow the state's directives," he said.
DeFelice, meanwhile, said there "appears to be a conflict of objectives between our political subdivision and the city."
Weirton Mayor George Kondik several weeks ago had petitioned the WVPPA to intervene, citing growing concerns over lawsuits, vendor payments and disputed contracts involving the port.
So far two vendors - Citynet and Kokosing - have filed suit because they haven't been paid for work done at the port, though the $550,000 Kokosing suit actually names Center Point Terminal and Go Green recycling, referencing the two companies as owners of record of the nearly 6.5-acre property where the work was done.
DeFelice said the earthenwork Kokosing had been hired to do has not been completed, hence the port's refusal to pay. He contends the two companies - Center Point and Go Green - were sued because they benefited substantially from the work Kokosing had done.
Officials with Go Green said this morning they do not own any of the property.
"We owned all of it (at one time," the Go Green official said. "But we sold (part) of it to Center Point around September. The port said it would buy the balance, but counldn't come up with the money, so we sold the remainder of it to Center Point in December 2012. The port had an opportunity to buy it and was unable to close."
At last week's meeting, the WVPPA voted 5-0, with one abstention, to dissolve WAPA.
DeFelice said the city's complaints should be directed at Weirton Area Port Authority Inc., the port's nonprofit arm, rather than the Weirton Area Port Authority. He said WAPA already sent a letter of deficiency to WINC.
He also questioned why city officials didn't wait for the results of a state audit, still in progress, that they'd requested in March.