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Port authority confusion: Online commenters confuse Scioto, Lawrence

A recent report from the Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber said that the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) is “unauditable” because the port authority failed to submit annual financial statements and did not have their financial records available to commence their biannual audit.

That report has caused some people to fuss online at the Lawrence County Port Authority. The trouble with that is that those are two different agencies. SOPA is the economic development agency for Scioto County and the Lawrence County Port Authority is the agency for Lawrence County.

“They are a totally separate agency,” said Bill Dingus, a member of the Lawrence County Port Authority.

The finances and books of the Lawrence County Port Authority are handled by the Lawrence County Community Action Organization.

“And this year, as we did last year, received a perfect audit, everything was in order and it was squeaky clean,” Dingus said. “And it has been every year of the port authority’s existence, it was audited as part of Lawrence County’s books and has always had good audits — very responsible in the accounting and has handled millions and millions of dollars in economic development money.”

The only association between the two port authorities is on the PureCycle Technologies plant project. The Haverhill company recently applied for a bond and the Lawrence County Port Authority had to sign off on the bond although SOPA is the agency issuing the bond.

PureCycle was originally going to be built in Scioto County and SOPA became its bond-issuing agency.

“As time went on, the site that they had in Scioto County was not as good as the old Dow Chemical site in Hanging Rock that the Lawrence County Economic Development agency had purchased,” Dingus said. Since the financing was already in motion with SOPA, Lawrence County Port Authority left it with SOPA. “So, all in all, we have no financial relationship with SOPA.”

Dingus said a couple members of the Lawrence County Port Authority had forwarded Facebook messages that people unfamiliar with the situation had sent to them.

“Everybody is trying to point fingers and criticize,” he said. “But our members don’t deserve the criticism. They are all volunteers and they deserve praise for their efforts for this county.”