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Community leaders get together for symposium

It was not an average meeting that took place at an Ironton restaurant Wednesday night.

Over food and drinks at Austyn’s Restaurant, community leaders from across Lawrence County gathered to discuss the positive things that are happening in the area.

“We want to gather these community leaders together to put things in motion in a positive way,” Ironton Councilman Kevin Waldo, who organized the event, said. “The idea of all of this is what people are doing in different areas to try to progress in a positive way.”

The event, dubbed the Lawrence County Community Leaders Symposium, featured about 25 leaders including those from the Ironton City Council, Lawrence County Commission, the Ironton and Lawrence County Port Authorities, the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization and several village governments.

Waldo said the event is a chance for leaders to get to know each other and exchange values and understandings.

“We’d like to do it every year,” he said. “This is what we call a first annual.”

After dinner, officials were given the opportunity to speak to the group about any ongoing or upcoming projects for the year.

Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship spoke to the group about the city’s sewer relining project. Last year the city received $5 million from stimulus funds and borrowed $7 million to complete the project.

“We are finding our system is in very, very poor condition,” Blankenship said. “It’s truly amazing that the system even works.”

The mayor also discussed the old water tank that has been replaced and the progress of a Safe Routes to School project that is aiming to create and maintain sidewalks around schools.

He also discussed the construction of a new Ironton-Russell bridge that is scheduled to begin next year.

Dianne Clement, senior community relations representative from Marathon Petroleum Co. and the LEDC secretary, talked to the group about the benefits of promoting Ironton, Ashland and Huntington together as one area.

The river is not a divider, it is a connector, she said.

“What’s good for Ironton is good for Ashland is good for Huntington,” Clement said.

Tom McKnight of the Lawrence County Port Authority encouraged those in attendance to remember the people that they serve.

“It’s a great town, great people,” he said. “They deserve our attention and they deserve what we can give them.”

Lawrence County Commissioner Jason Stephens commended the group for their willingness to come together.

“That is what makes Lawrence County the best place in the world to live as far as I’m concerned,” Stephens said.

Though 2009 was a tough year, Stephens said the county has plenty to be excited about.

“There are projects up and down the river that are going on,” he said.