Archived Story

Ready for redevelopment

Published 10:15am Friday, December 13, 2013

Local officials are taking a hard look at what could become of a 24-acre commercial development property in Ironton.

The Industrial and Commercial Committee of the Ironton City Council met prior to council’s regular meeting on Thursday and heard from Lawrence Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Bill Dingus about possibly developing the old Ironton Iron Inc. lot on South Third Street.

“(The LEDC) would like to put some type of commercial campus on this property,” Dingus told the committee. “A place with shared businesses, shared loading docks or conference rooms.”

Dingus notified the committee of the LEDC’s interest on the heels of receiving a letter from the Ohio EPA that relayed positive and encouraging news. Erin Strouse wrote that an investigation and remediation through the EPA’s Voluntary Action Program (VAP) caused the agency to issue a covenant not to sue and declare the “brownfield” ready for development.

Dingus asked that the committee recommend to council the property be transferred from the City of Ironton to the Lawrence County Port Authority.

“We have a good, united partnership,” Dingus said. “I ask that the property be transferred — with all benefits and liabilities — to the port authority.”

The port authority would then, Dingus said, transfer the property to the LEDC. Committee member Aaron Bollinger made the motion to recommend the property transfer to council with committee members Dave Frazer and Beth Rist also in favor.

Talk of the Ironton Iron property resurfaced during the regular meeting of council when City of Ironton Finance Director Kristen Martin asked council to make a concerted effort to look at income tax agreements prior to transferring the property.

“If I remember correctly any income tax revenue collected from that property will go to the LEDC for five years for future development,” she said. “I’ll have to check on that but I think because (the city) own(s) the property 100 percent of income tax goes to (the LEDC).”

Bollinger told Martin he thought the agreement would give only 50 percent of income tax revenue to the LEDC and the other half would go to the city.

“We for sure need to look at that,” Kevin Waldo, council chairman, said. “We definitely don’t want to give up the property and the tax revenue. Although we are extremely interested in developing that property and entering into a package with the LEDC, it’s not going to be at a 100 percent income tax rate.”

Bollinger mentioned some instances when business moved into Ironton and were given a tax incentive, then moved out when it came time to start paying school taxes.

“Back to New York,” Waldo added.

In other business, Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship told council about several complaints from residents on and near McPherson Street about train whistles.

“I have spoken to the people at the railroad and was told new railroad rules require the whistle to be blown at every crossing,” he said. “He told me the railroad is obviously going to err on the side of safety.”

Waldo said the whistles he has heard are “deafening.”

There is a “Quiet Zone” concept in regard to train whistles, Blankenship said, but getting it established is an arduous process with many rules and regulations, as well as a $2,800 fee.

“I live three blocks away from the railroad tracks and sometimes it rattles the pictures on my walls,” Bob Cleary, council member, said. “It might be worth paying the $2,800 to get that done.”

After adopting ordinance 13-71 authorizing the mayor to enter into an agreement with E.L. Robinson Engineering Company, council member Craig Harvey asked Blankenship for a favor.

“Could you ask whoever is doing work on the streets in town to notify people or the newspaper so it can notify people when they are going to shut down a street?” Harvey asked. “Instead of letting people know, they just throw up cones and block it off.”

Blankenship said he has had trouble getting some companies — Columbia Gas in particular – to notify his office of temporary street closures.

“If they let me know at all is it usually at the last minute,” Blankenship said. “I have told Columbia Gas and AEP that they have to give some notice so I can make the public aware.”

Waldo said he has noticed alleys getting closed off more often downtown as well. “People use those alleys a lot,” he said.

The three-reading rule was suspended and ordinances subsequently adopted for:

13-76 – amending the annual operating budget;

13-78 – authorizing and directing the mayor to enter into a contract with Ohio University Southern for police patrol;

13-79 – rescheduling council’s regular meeting from 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 26, to 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 23 because of Christmas. The finance committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 23 as a result; and

13-82 – authorizing the mayor to accept a bid from Allard Excavating for the Storms Creek Bike Trail Project.

Ordinance 13-80 authorizing the mayor to award bids for chemical purchases had its first reading, as did ordinance 13-83 for concrete bids. Ordinance 13-74, which adopts a temporary budget for the City of Ironton had its second reading and ordinance 13-72 to enter into an agreement with E.L. Robinson for phase III of the South Ironton Sewer Separation Project had its third reading and was adopted.

Council also approved resolution 13-81 to apply for Ohio Natureworks funding.

Cleary was appointed by council as its representative on the board of Ironton aLive and Rist is council’s backup appointment.

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  • Poor Richard

    A number of years ago when the dilemma with Memorial Hall first came to light, I had envisioned Ohio University Art department taking over that building, the Marting, or the Depot. I could see art classes, a gallery, and a place where local artists could sell their art. Seniors from the Marting could take art lessons and maybe even become a selling artist along with local citizens. Art would incorporate well with the plaza. OU students would be around livening up the area. Well, OU and Ironton, I understand that Marshall University will be taking over the old Stone and Thomas building in downtown Huntington WV which will become a ‘state-of-the-art’ visual arts center complete with classrooms, studios and labs along with retail and gallery space. Construction is currently underway. Art and handmade items are becoming a hot commodity, Ironton, start paying attention, it’s not all about manufacturing and steel mills! And OU, it’s not all about nursing!

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  • Poor Richard

    Train and barge noise in this area is out of hand if you ask me. I can hear those things over 20 miles away like they were in my back yard. Not to mention I64, you can hear that interstate (I would imagine) all the way to Columbus! Most populated areas of the US with a major interstate have sound dampening walls but not WV, seems like the noisier the better. Even their summer concerts on the river are aggravating for everyone in Ohio that can’t even come out in their backyards from the extremely loud music. In my opinion, the state/federal health administration should be contacted. Any noise exposures of 85 decibels or more can damage hearing. An ambulance siren is 120 dB, a jet engine take off is 140 dB, a chain saw 110, hand drill 98. I can’t even imagine what a train or barge is — maybe 500 dB depending on your distance. I don’t really know what the railroad is thinking — because the horn is so loud, no one near the track can even get an orientation as to how far away it is or where it is located and from what I’ve noticed, it hasn’t done a darn thing to remedy people from walking on the tracks, pulling their cars on the tracks or trying to ‘beat’ the train. Maybe legislators should pass a bill that allows cities/towns more options as to how they want rails handled that impact their citizens without having to line the pockets of the railroad companies to stop unhealthy exposure to their noise! Ridiculous!

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  • Mark Chesler

    …In a June 26, 1994, Cleveland Plain Dealer article entitled Environmentalists Leery of Possible Loopholes, Chris Trepal, co-director of the Earth Day Coalition in Northeast Ohio, lambasted the enabling VAP legislation as “one of the poorest public policy measures I’ve ever seen.” A clairvoyant Richard Sahli, executive director of the Ohio Environmental Council, echoed his sentiment in the May 26, 1994, Cincinnati Post, “We do predict there will be a lot of shoddy cleanups under this bill the state will never catch.” Testifying before the House Energy & Natural Resources Committee on behalf of the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers, Cincinnati environmental lawyer David Altman asserted, “This bill is a definite bait-and-switch. What it is supposed to do and what it does is two different things.”

    A seminal, 152 page 2001 Gund Foundation funded study by the Green Environmental Council confirmed the critics’ predictions. A dearth of agency resources to provide meaningful regulatory oversight combined with the lack of a credible, established enforcement mechanism has rendered the feckless, industry aligned program toothless. “It’s a broken program – it doesn’t work,” declared the council’s Bruce Cornett in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Both the Sierra Club and Ohio Citizen Action opposed the 2000 $400 million Clean Ohio state bond issue out of concern the fungible proceeds could be utilized to prop up the lame Voluntary Action Program and create a trojan horse polluters slush fund. “This is the governor’s attempt to whitewash his EPA,” charged Jane Forrest Redfern, environmental projects director for Ohio Citizen Action in a November 1, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer article. Dedicated professionals, veteran Ohio EPA bureaucrats attempted to rectify the problem. According to the October 4, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer, “EPA staffers who shared some of the environmentalists’ concerns, at one point launched a quiet but unsuccessful campaign to disband the program.”

    For six years after the Voluntary Action Program’s 1996 implementation, the U.S. EPA refused to extend program participants federal immunity and threatened to decertify the Ohio EPA due to the VAP’s expansive, inhibiting secrecy provisions and tangible lack of transparency. In a brokered, bifurcated modification to the Ohio VAP that “frankly doesn’t make sense at all,” according to Ohio Public Interest Research Group director Amy Simpson (Akron Beacon Journal, February 24, 2001), an alternative “memorandum of agreement” VAP track with enhanced public access was crafted. Companies that elect the original, opaque, “classic” option, which conceals under an embargo the extent and nature of contamination, will not be afforded U.S. EPA liability insulation. “Why Ohio would want a two-headed monster is beyond me,” quipped the Ohio Environmental Council’s Jack Shaner. In SCA’s case, the jaundiced, green and incompliant wants to hide what you can’t see.

    Mark Chesler
    Oberlin, Ohio

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    • Brandon Roberts

      Are you wanting to submit this as a Letter to the Editor?

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