Positive approach will allow Ironton to move forward

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2005

The Huntington/Ironton Empowerment Zone has been and continues to be a partner with the City of Ironton on numerous projects.

The two water towers on each end of the city and a new tank on Nixon Hill were part of the infrastructure improvements in the EZ application.

The previous city engineer developed the concept to increase flow to the extreme ends of the city and to provide water in the outlying undeveloped areas of the city east of US 52.

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The new tank on Nixon Hill would allow for the removal of the pumping station that supplies water to the State Route 141 area and Indian Hills.

Community Development Block Grant funds have allowed the City of Ironton to accomplish many tasks that would have otherwise not been accomplished.

In 2002, CDBG money provided $80,000 for demolition resulting in the elimination of 18 blighted and dilapidated structures.

This money funded the development of parking for the Bellefonte project and $30,000 for demolition.

There are 11 structures that will be torn down by June 30 utilizing these funds.

Additionally, there will be another round of demolitions using the 2004 CDBG funds of approximately $35,000.

Since taking office Dec. 1, 2003, there have been 26 demolitions without cost to the city.

As aforementioned, 11 more structures are scheduled to be demolished by June 30, 2005, with the potential of up to 19 additional properties being demolished by Dec. 31, 2005.

In all, within two years of taking office, up to 56 blighted and dilapidated structures will have been removed in the city at a cost much less than that of 2002.

In December 2003, shortly after taking office, one of the oldest sewers collapsed on Railroad Street, leaving a gaping hole nearly 20 feet deep, and 14 feet wide.

This particular sewer is made of brick that is formed in a circle.

I was able to secure a $93,000 grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission to repair the collapse.

Within a few months, the sewer collapsed again, and has been in disrepair for several months.

This time grant funds were not available to fix the collapse; recently city council approved 0-percent financing for 20 years that I was able to secure from the Ohio Public Works Commission.

Work should begin again within the next several weeks to finally complete this repair.

In his letter, the previous mayor mentioned the aborted project to move jobs from Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital to the city center. I would like to point out that a lease is only valid when it contains the signatures of both parties.

Though the former mayor took part in an announcement of this project, it was never "secured" as his letter stated due to OLBH never signing final lease papers.

Within the first few weeks of taking office, I met with the new CEO of OLBH. During this meeting, I was informed the announcement of the job relocations from OLBH's Ashland campus had been premature.

Now we face an EPA mandate to improve our sewer discharge system. I have spoken with representatives from the Ohio Rural Development Association and other state offices.

To date, I have not been able to find resources to offset the costs of developing a long-term Combined Sewer Overflow Plan.

If anyone within the community can be of assistance in locating a potential funding source, I would appreciate a call.

In closing, my family and I love our city.

My wife and I plan and hope to spend our remaining years here, in one of the best places in America.

We also hope to contribute to the sustainment and growth of the community so that our children can stay close and have successful careers here, too.

I will continue to work hard on behalf of all the citizens of Ironton, including our critics.

Where others have ideas that better us, we will welcome those ideas and help to implement them.

Where others have only the negatives to point to, I will, with you, challenge them to re-join the dialogue in a constructive manner.

Let's all be fans of our city, and recognize our challenges as opportunities to become better.

John Elam is a former city councilman and current mayor of Ironton.