Council meets new economic development director

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 25, 2003

After two days on the job, Ironton's new economic development director, Matt Ward, said he has a lot of work ahead of him, but is excited to really get started.

As his first priority, Ward said he will work with City Engineer Philip Biggs to catalog all available properties within the city, publicly and privately owned, to make it easier to market the city.

"It is a little overwhelming right now with all the organizing that needs to be done and the grunt work in assessing all the properties," he said. "But, it feels great and I am glad to be here. I am looking forward to some accomplishments. I know it is going to happen."

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Ward said he already has a few potential clients interested in Ironton.

Mayor Bob Cleary announced Ward's hire Monday, and the Proctorville native began work Wednesday. Ward was officially introduced to the Ironton City Council in Thursday's regular meeting.

"I want to wish you well," Councilman Brent Pyles said. "I am sure all of us here expect great things. You are the point man for these things."

Councilman Richard Price agreed by saying that "jobs mean more to this city than anything else right now."

Mayor Cleary echoed these sentiments.

"We have been talking about some of the plans for Ironton," Cleary said. "I think (Ward) will be a great asset to the community."

Ward's salary was set at $41,000 plus benefits. Future increases may be performance-based, Cleary said.

The 24-year-old Ward graduated from Fairland High School in 1996. After receiving a bachelor's degree from Ohio University in 2000, he worked in the House of Representatives as an aide to John Carey and Clyde Evans.

Ward married his wife, Carol, two years ago. The couple's son, Maxwell, was born in December.

Afterwards, Council resolved an issue that began last September.

Following several amendments and months of off and on discussion, Council adopted an ordinance permitting bed and breakfasts in all residential neighborhoods.

Although the majority of Council supported the principle behind the ordinance, an ongoing discussion over the specifics of the restrictions caused it to be amended several times.

Originally, Council Chairman Jesse Roberts sponsored the ordinance. Although it was designed to be restrictive, he pulled his sponsorship after it was amended to restrict it to only one establishment within a six-block radius because he said he felt that this was too restrictive and would infringe on other districts such as business districts.

However, Councilmen Bob Isaac, John Elam and Jim Tordiff re-sponsored the ordinance. Last month, it was amended again to remove the six-block restriction after talking with Karl Wentz, Ironton's building and code enforcement officer.

"In everyone's defense, we were trying to do what is right to maintain the integrity of the (residential neighborhoods) but also encourage bed and breakfasts in historic districts and homes that could be used for that," Roberts said.

The restrictions still require 60 percent of the adjacent property owners to agree, there must be sufficient rooms and off-street parking available, the occupancy must be short-term, the owner must purchase a non-transferable $500 annual license and the operator must also live in the home.

It is hard to tell if anyone in Ironton will show immediate interest in opening an establishment, but it could be a benefit in the future as the city tries to stimulate growth and tourism, Roberts said.

"Even if someone is not interested, it may improve their property value," he said. "It just opens new opportunities."

In other business, Council:

4Authorized the Mayor to spend up to $20,000 to purchase used vehicles for the water distribution department. Cleary will use funds appropriated in the water distribution department's operating budget to purchase one truck with a utility bed and will spend the remainder of the funds to purchase one or two pickup trucks.

4Approved a budget realignment of the Health Department. Health Superintendent Charlie Kouns donated one month's salary, $2,375, by retiring one month early to help replace funds cut from the department's travel, subscriptions and membership fund which is used to pay for Dr. Kevin Willis, medical advisor, to maintain certifications. Kouns is set to retire in June but will stay on while his replacement is trained.

4Authorized Cleary to award a bid of $45,219 to Breathing Air Systems, Reynoldsburg, to purchase an air compressor, mobile unit and support pump for the Ironton Fire Department. The funds will come from $81,000 awarded through the Fire Act Grant and $9,000 in matching funds. The bid was $5,600 higher than other bid received but Fire Chief Tom Runyon stated in a written letter that the lower bid did not meet all the requirements.