Council shoots down economic position again

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 27, 2002

For the second time this month, the Ironton City Council voted against a resolution providing for the position of an economic development director in the 2003 temporary budget.

In a regular meeting two weeks ago, Council debated the possibility of hiring someone to focus specifically on attracting business and industry to the city. However, a resolution failed to pass after deadlocking in a 3-3 tie.

Councilman John Elam re-sponsored the resolution on Thursday's agenda because Councilman Bob Lipker was unable to attend the previous meeting,

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"I am impassioned about economic development," Elam said. "I thought it would be appropriate to have full council here and bring it up to vote again."

Almost everyone on council voiced their support for the idea, but several members again questioned the financial feasibility and limited discussion of the resolution.

The resolution was voted down in a 4-3 vote. Elam, Councilmen Jim Tordiff and Bob Isaac voted in favor of the resolution. Lipker, Chairman Jesse Roberts and Councilmen Brent Pyles and Richard Price voted against the resolution.

Based on census data, Elam said that from 1990 to 2000 the city of Ironton suffered a 12 percent population decrease and an 8 percent household decrease. He said he hopes the city can take the necessary steps to halt this downturn.

Mayor Bob Cleary said that he had hoped to hire someone only on a part-time or contractual basis.

"In the temporary budget I had asked for money to pay for professional services," he said. "I agree that we need some internal control for economic development."

Cleary suggested that everyone involved sit down and discuss the pros and cons of the issue before adopting the finalized budget by March 31, 2003.

"We have got a little time to look at this," he said. "There is a lot more to it than just hiring somebody."

City Finance Director Cindy Anderson said that the city could afford to pay the projected salary of the position for one or two years, but would then require cuts in other areas unless the city's economic situation were to improve.

Tordiff said that passing this resolution would not set anything in stone, but would simply make sure that it remains a priority.

"I just feel that this is one of, if not the most, important things we can do right now, especially now that we have something to market," he said. "I think it needs to be a full-time person who looks at the future of Ironton and makes sure the current businesses are taken care of as well."

Pyles said that all the arguments are compelling, but the issue needs more thought and discussion.

"I do not think there is anyone on the council that does not want to see economic development," he said. "Until we have the opportunity to sit down and hear the plans and determine the direction we want to develop this town, I think we would be remiss to put someone in a position without direction."

In other business, Council adopted two resolutions recommending that the Lawrence County Commission grant enterprise zone tax abatements to Muth Lumber Co. Inc. and Liebert North America.

Ralph Kline, community development director for the Lawrence County Community Action Organization, said the abatements are an incentive package to encourage businesses to invest in themselves and create jobs to improve the local economy.

If accepted by the commission, the abatement would grant a 50 percent property tax break for a 10-year period on the total value of two new construction projects by the companies.

Muth Lumber has already begun the $2.6 million project that will build four buildings and add equipment and inventory.

Liebert will work in conjunction with the Lawrence Economic Development Committee on the $4.8 million project to build a 75,000 square foot building, add equipment and improve the existing facilities.