County looks to finance projects

STEUBENVILLE – Jefferson County commissioners next week are expected to announce the purchase of the Towers building on Market Street and how it and other capital improvement projects may be financed.

Commissioners Tom Gentile and Thomas Graham on Thursday said the county will finance the purchase of the building and adjacent parking lots, a new roof on the county’s Job and Family Services building and the demolition of the county annex building next to the courthouse to add public parking for people visiting the courthouse.

County Commissioner David Maple was absent from the meeting.

A committee studying the purchase of the Towers building from Petrola Family Real Estate recommended the county proceed with the purchase. The county and other government entities pay rent at the Towers and other buildings. As an example, the county health department and regional planning commission pay a total of $9,600 a month for rent at the Towers.

Commissioners have been going back and forth with Petrola Family Real Estate on offers for the Towers. Graham said an informal agreement has been reached on the purchase price. Graham, who wouldn’t release the price on Thursday, said residents will be surprised to see how far the owner has come down in price, especially with the four parking lots that will be included.

Graham said the county pays the parking price for employees at lots in the downtown area. He said the auditor’s office will be compiling a cost for the employees’ parking. Gentile said cost for parking for workers at the county Job and Family Services Department totals about $300 a month.

The commissioners on Thursday signed a $198,850 contract with N.F. Mansusetto & Sons Inc. of Martins Ferry for the replacement of the roof at the county Job and Family Services building.

Commissioners want to put the cost of the roof, demolition of the Annex Building and the purchase of the Towers and parking lots into one loan.

“We never considered the purchase of the Towers as a stand-alone plan,” Gentile said. “We want to tie it all into one financing plan.”

Commissioners also may move the veterans services commission out of its building on North Street to the Towers because of difficulty veterans have in accessing the office and because of the cost of building maintenance due to its age.

Commissioners also said they and the county’s water and sewer department have received positive feedback from Smithfield residents for the county taking over the village’s water system.

Graham said the commissioners have been criticized for forgiving up to $150,000 that Smithfield owed the county for the purchase of county water. Graham said the figure is closer to $200,000 and the county’s water and sewer department attorney is looking into collecting the additional money owed.

Graham said the county gained 400 customers through the Smithfield takeover.

Shannan Gosbin, county water and sewer department director, said the county will collect more money from customers than what Smithfield was paying to the county. Village residents were paying an extra $5 a month to help pay down the money owed to the county.

The county’s water and sewer department now will begin installing new meters inside homes that can be remotely read.

Commissioners approved a $43,900 contract with Ohio-West Virginia Excavating of Powhatan Point to replace a section of retaining wall along Permars Run Road (county Road 77). The engineer’s estimate was $55,000.

County Engineer James Branagan said the road will have to be closed once work begins. He said the public will be notified of the closing in advance.