STEUBENVILLE - Discussion on the fate of county Road 7F again dominated the Jefferson County commissioners' meeting held Thursday.
Commissioners have clashed in recent weeks on the decision made by commissioners Sept. 23 to close the road known to many as old state Route 7. At the time, commissioners Dave Maple and Tom Gentile voted in favor of closing the road after being approached on the possibility of using the road as part of a walking and biking trail system in the county.
Commissioner Tom Graham voted against the closing, citing its use by emergency vehicles and county residents in the area.
However, opposition to the closing has mounted the past several weeks, and a petition signed by 1,633 residents along with letters of opposition from local municipal and emergency services officials were presented to commissioners during their Oct. 14 meeting.
During previous meetings Graham cited commissioners didn't follow normal procedure, and past vacations of county roads had typically been considered after requests to do so by residents.
Also, previously Gentile has lamented more local officials and citizens didn't voice their opposition to the road's closure prior to commissioners' vote.
During Thursday's meeting commissioners received a letter opposing the closure by local resident Kathleen Sousa, after which Graham made a motion for commissioners to re-advertise a public viewing, hold another public meeting on the matter and re-consider the road's closing.
"I'm not going to second the motion at this time," said Gentile.
Commissioner Dave Maple was absent from Thursday's meeting, and the motion died for lack of a second.
Donald Miller, Knoxville Trustee township, then told commissioners the majority of local residents oppose the road's closure.
"I, along with the other (township) trustees, haven't been in contact with a single taxpayer in favor of closing the road," said Miller, adding the road was used as a secondary route for township snow removal, and illegal dumping along the road wouldn't be stopped by its closure.
Miller said he wasn't against recreation, but the surrounding communities would be better served by trying to develop land along Road 7F. He added if the road was developed for a hiking and biking trail it would an be irreversible decision if any grant funds were used for the trail's development.
Steve Vukelic also told commissioners there was plenty of adjacent land where a trail could be developed without the road's closure.
"All the surrounding mayors want that road open," he said. "I still think you could put a trail there (near the road)."
Gentile thanked participants for their input.
"Even though I didn't second the motion ... the process still is ongoing," he said, adding he still is gathering information. "I'm not ready to do anything at this time."
Gentile also said he was meeting with Toronto Mayor John Geddis soon to discuss the matter.
Graham said he didn't understand what other information was needed, adding enough already was known to reconsider the road's closure. He also cited opposition from local officials and citizens as reasons the matter should be reconsidered.
Graham also cited a 2004 traffic count on the road that showed an average of 780 vehicles per day. He added cost was never a consideration in the road's closure.
"These (local officials and those signing the petition) are the people that want that road open," he said, adding those near the road were being "disenfranchised."
Graham again made a motion for commissioners to re-advertise a public viewing, hold another public meeting on the matter and re-consider the road's closing. Gentile once again declined to second the motion.
"I'm still gathering information on this," Gentile said in explaining his position.
Graham said he would make the motion again during the next commissioners' meeting.
In other matters:
Commissioners approved a payment of $3,655 to TC Architects for work done on the county's new animal shelter. Commissioners said construction was proceeding, and shelter construction could be completed by January.
Commissioners approved a $41,450 contract with Ohio West Virginia Excavation of Powhatten Point for construction of a temporary bridge on county Road 74, also known as Goulds Road. County Engineer Jim Branagan said he was hoping work on the bridge would be completed by Thanksgiving.
Commissioners approved Graham to serve as their representative to the Ohio Public Works Commission.
(Miller can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)