Ironton City Council takes closer look at biomass lease

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, November 24, 2009

IRONTON — Concerns over the terms of the lease and the prospective tenant’s liability coverage had Ironton City Council again questioning an ordinance that would turn four acres of city-owned open space into a temporary holding site for a local company that produces wood biomass products.

At issue is a proposal by Mayor Rich Blankenship that would have the city leasing four-acres adjacent to Moulton Field on Lawrence Street to Custom Tree Service so the company could use the land to grind down and temporarily store its wood products.

Council’s apprehension comes 10 days after the legislative body unanimously repealed a two-year-old resolution that dedicated the property for park and recreational use for 25 years.

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Plans for the land had the Friends of Ironton possibly using the park to host and accommodate various festivals and events.

The resolution renamed the city-owned property Veteran’s Park.

The decision to rescind the October 2007 resolution came after Friends of Ironton President Rick Jansen informed the administration earlier this year that the civic organization was heading in a different direction and did not need the property anymore.

Council, who was not provided a copy of the proposed lease until minutes before their Nov. 12 meeting, asked if wording could be put into the document that would give the city an “escape clause” should they decide to take a different avenue with the property.

The agreement has the city extending a lease to Custom Tree Service for 12 months with an option to renew for an additional 12 months at a rate of $200 per month.

“I think the escape clause is needed as the property is too valuable to have it tied up for $200 a month,” Council President Bob Cleary said when suggesting that a 90 day notice be inserted into the still-to-be-approved lease.

Cleary added that with no capital improvements being made to the property asking for such protection for the city was not unreasonable.

While many on council agreed that some sort of protection was needed, opinions varied as to what type of timetable should be given based on the amount of product being stored on the property at any one time. Some felt 90 days was too short for a business that size.

As part of the proposal with the city, Custom Tree Service agreed to “turn-over” and remove its biomass wood products on a five week cycle.

Cleary also asked Blankenship to double check with the company to make sure its liability coverage was correctly stated in the lease. Custom Tree Service listed its coverage at $100,000 — a number Cleary thought was unusually low.

Council will again discuss and possibly act on the ordinance at its next general session on Dec. 10.

Council meets, per its charter, on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. for the installation and oaths of its new and current members.

Council members-elect Dave Frazer and Beth Rist are tentatively scheduled to take their seats on the city’s legislative body starting next month replacing outgoing members Leo Johnson and Butch Huff.

Frazer and Johnson are currently part of a mandatory recount with the Lawrence County Board of Elections due to the razor-thin margin of their council race that had Frazer finishing fourth with 1,246 votes and Johnson ending up fifth with 1,233 votes. The top four vote getters were awarded seats on council.

All races with a vote difference of less than 0.5 percent are automatically recounted per state election law. The recount will take place on Nov. 30.

To conduct a recount, the board of elections will count a random sampling of 3 percent of the results from the contested races.

If the recounts match the official results, they will stand. If there are any discrepancies, the board of elections will recount all the results.

Councilmen Cleary and Mike Lutz will be sworn in for new terms as well.

Kevin Waldo will serve as council’s new president starting Dec. 1.