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PROFILE: Development, improvements in works for City of Ironton

From floral displays and trees to new businesses and recreational opportunities, it only takes a quick look around Ironton to discover the ways the city is hoping to grow and improve.

One such project that leaders say is improving the quality of life for many Irontonians is the relining of the city’s sewer system.

“This is a much needed project,” Mayor Rich Blankenship said. “Infrastructure often times goes neglected. It’s out of sight, out of mind.”

The work to reline the sewer system with styrene began in October.

Last summer the dilapidated sewer system wreaked havoc in some city homes, causing sewage to back up in basements.

“We’re addressing those issues and hopefully correcting those for the future,” Blankenship said.

Part of the work has involved running a camera through the pipes to check for leaks.

“We’re finding water leaks through televising the sewer system,” Blankenship said.

The engineering stage of a sewer separation project is underway for the north end of Ironton. When work is completed, that section of town will have storm drains.

With another project, the city hopes to revive the Ro-Na Theatre, which was once of a vital part of downtown Ironton.

The theater restoration is just one part of an effort to revitalize several blocks along Second and Third streets in the downtown area, something that Blankenship hopes will bring more foot traffic and businesses to town.

“I think one leads to another,” he said.

And several businesses are on their way to Ironton. A dialysis center is set to go into the former Big Lots building. King’s Daughters Medical Center has been tied to the development of a health care facility on Park Avenue though hospital officials have said they have nothing to announce at this time. And St. Mary’s Medical Center, the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization and other partners are still at work on an Ironton facility along State Route 141.

The Ironton Port Authority and other economic development entities are also hard at work to attract businesses to the city’s industrial park and several other areas in Ironton.

But the government is not the only entity working to improve the city. Civic organizations like the Rotary Club, the Friends of Ironton and Ironton in Bloom are each working on projects designed to improve the quality of life for citizens.

The Friends’ Splash Park is tentatively scheduled to open after the Memorial Day Parade this year. The Friends of Ironton are building the water playground with donated funds and grant money.

A skate park is set to be built in the park located at Fourth and Etna Streets. The city has ordered the equipment and construction crews are waiting for a break in winter weather to begin installing it, Blankenship said.

Besides skating, visitors can also have cookouts on the parks’ grills and take advantage of the playgrounds and basketball court, Blankenship said.

Last year, the Ironton Rotary club started a five-year beautification project at the fountain area at Center Street in downtown Ironton.

Rotary club members replaced the brick flooring, are working on a pergola and planted flowers in pots and hanging baskets. Each week, Rotary members pick-up litter and leaves from the fountain.

“The overall intent is just to clean up an area that was neglected for years,” Rich Mountain, community service chair for the club, said. The project aims to make the area safer and more appealing. Residents can use the space for an art showcase, a religious get-together or just to sit and read a book on a summer day, he said.

The project is just one of the ways the club attempts to live out its motto, “Service Above Self.”

“One of the ways to follow that (principle) is to find a project to improve the quality of life,” Mountain said.

“Rotary is about service and we try to do things within our community as well as internationally,” Rotary President Joe Jenkins said. “The fountain project was one of several that we discussed and it seemed to be something that we could manage relative to both time and money.

“Rotary projects are not just about making monetary donations but also about the members getting involved first hand.”

City employees have helped the fountain project along and Ironton in Bloom has helped as well, maintaining the flowers the club planted, Mountain said.

In its two years of existence, Ironton in Bloom’s mission has been to beautify the city with floral displays and landscaped areas as well as to promote a litter-free environment and plant trees.

Carol Allen, co-chair of the organization, said the beautification and tree planting has many benefits.

“It’s important for a myriad of reasons,” Allen said. “It makes people feel good when they walk out and see a clean street.”

Trees produce oxygen and the landscaping near the floodwall helps control flooding, she said.

This year the non-profit organization plans to again enter a national contest called America in Bloom. The group entered Ironton in the contest in 2008 and the city won an award for its floral displays at city entrances, the downtown area and in residential areas.

Allen said the organization focuses on the entrances to town on purpose.

“We work on entrances so (visitors) are thinking ‘Wow, this is a really nice place,’” Allen said. “That’s a really nice thought to enter or leave with.”