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Going forward

Blankenship shares his ambitions for the next four years

 

Last Tuesday, voters gave Rich Blankenship four more years as mayor of Ironton. Blankenship said he is thankful for the opportunity to serve and has plans for what he wants to accomplish in his next term.

“I am very optimistic about Ironton’s future,” Blankenship said. “And I am going to work hard over the next four years.”

 

New faces in place

Blankenship said he is eager to meet with the new city council members, Philip Heald and Aaron Bollinger, who were also elected Tuesday, and “bring them up to speed” on the many facets of the city budget and the various city departments. Blankenship said he is eager to address any questions they have. His point is that a well-informed council member will be better able to understand the city’s needs.

“It’s sometimes one thing to see figures in black and white on a piece of paper and another thing to understand what those numbers mean,” Blankenship said. “I sincerely encourage them to come to meetings and ask questions. I hope they will study the issues.”

Understanding the budget is key to understanding the city as a whole, Blankenship said.

“We have to juggle a multitude of issues to keep services for the citizens,” Blankenship said.

 

Jobs

While Ironton has fared better than some other cities in the state and across the nation, Blankenship said he wants to continue to bring in new business and industry. He said he wants to work more closely with the Ohio Department of Development to find businesses seeking to expand or relocate and determine which of those entities would be a good fit for Ironton.

Blankenship said he wants state officials to know Ironton better, what it has to offer and what businesses could successfully locate here.

 

Fixing things

One area Blankenship said may need revision is the city’s sanitation voucher program.

City residents are allowed to pick up vouchers monthly at the city building that entitle them to dump large unwanted items at Rumpke, Inc., free of charge.

The city foots the bill but Blankenship said there are a few people who are using it more often than they should. He is considering a proposal to better regulate the voucher program to reduce the cost to the city and prevent abuse.

Blankenship said he also wants to work with city council to address street maintenance needs.

 

Sprucing up

Blankenship said he is eager to continue working with civic groups, such as Ironton In Bloom, to make the city cleaner and more attractive. He is also going to continue his focus on blighted and abandoned properties.

“Code enforcement is going to be key,” he said. ��We want to continue code enforcement as best we can, work with property owners to demolish condemned structures.”

 

Build it and they will come

Perhaps the most-awaited project in the recent history of the city will get its start next month.

Bids will be opened Dec. 15 in Columbus for the new Ironton-Russell Bridge. This comes after years of holdups that left area residents wondering if the more than 80-year-old span would ever be replaced.

Blankenship said he hopes the remediation work at the proposed riverfront park will be completed by summer. This will allow the city to go forward with plans to build a riverfront park, enhancing not only the city’s appearance but also its recreational offerings.

The bright note about both the riverfront remediation and development and the bridge are the jobs that will be created while both projects are under construction.

Blankenship said city officials and private developers are “deeply engaged” in getting a hotel to locate in the Ninth Street area that was once home to the Lawrence County Group and Shelter Home. A hotel is one of the items most city leaders say the city needs but has not had in many years.

“I am confident that in the not-too-distant future we will have a hotel locate in Ironton,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship said the stormwater separation project for north Ironton is on schedule. He said the next step is to submit the city’s plans to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which must be done by the end of December. Actual construction should begin next summer.