Editor’s Note: The following is in response to a file inadvertently uploaded to our website on the morning of Tuesday, August 23, from a work in progress. The online file was removed immediately and a complete story published online later that day.
The Scioto County Commissioners feel strongly that a rebuttal is necessary to the inaccurate and inflammatory comments made by Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen and other city employees in the PDT online edition dated 8/23/16.
First of all, Mr. Allen is incorrect in his statements about the Scioto County commissioner’s office and the city’s consultant. First of all, no official request to help was ever offered. No help for free or otherwise. The Scioto County Commissioners, utilizing in-house personnel, have applied for, and been awarded many CHIP grants over the years. A reader should ask why Portsmouth has a consultant in the first place and about their record of awards in the recent past. Mr. Wojno, the city’s consultant, was in touch with Mrs. Throckmorton several times during the application process. A matter of fact Mr. Wojno, Mrs. Shearer and Mrs. Throckmorton went to lunch and discussed the application more than once. In fact, Mr. Wojno did help by supplying information and assisting Mrs. Shearer with her portion of the city’s work. One may ask why this critical information is not known by city officials.
Secondly, the county’s grant writer, Michelle Throckmorton was in contact with Portsmouth Community Development Director Tracy Shearer throughout the CHIP process. By direction of the state, Scioto County had to join up with Portsmouth. Scioto County had to lead and take full responsibility for the application. This isn’t something we asked for. It was mandated by the State of Ohio. The application process is transparent and open to view by anyone. The fact that Mr. Allen has never seen a copy of the application is no fault of the commissioner’s office. A request to see the application during the process was never asked for and as of Tuesday August 30th at 2:30 pm no one from the City of Portsmouth has asked for a copy.
Thirdly, the statement made by Commissioner Davis, “one piece of paper was left out” was based on a phone conversation to Michelle Throckmorton on Friday from the regional rep for the department of development. This is all we had to go on initially. It is important to note that no official notification has been received by the applicant, Scioto County, and that the matter is being investigated. Tracy Shearer was advised by Michelle Throckmorton on Friday evening. It is also interesting to note that not one elected city official has reached out to the county commissioners office to date.
Fourth, the claim the application received a zero is true. Per the regional rep, it was never graded. Therefore it received a zero score. This is based on direct phone conversations with the regional representative. The City of Portsmouth is urged to communicate to the Portsmouth Daily Times and all media sources who their source of information in Columbus is.
Fifth, in regards to the application, after an investigation on Monday morning by commissioner staff, it has been found the state agency has likely made a mistake. The requested paperwork was included in the application. This mistake is currently being pursued and investigated at many levels. Our only regret is that city officials had not contacted the county before running to the press and making inflammatory comments before confirming facts.
Fifth, in regards to City Solicitor Haas’s claims. There was a letter requesting a quick turn-around of information from Portsmouth in regards to the partnership. Timely decisions were needed and feedback from the City of Portsmouth was needed. It was determined that Mr. Allen was out of the country only after the letter was sent. Councilman Jim Kalb was called to try to move things forward. Kalb said he could not make a decision for the City Manager so it was decided to wait for Mr. Allen to return. Upon his return a meeting was held and decisions were made regarding how the application would be made and how the admin fees would be shared. All in attendance were in agreement including Mr. Allen.
In regards to the county land bank, the Scioto County Land Reutilization Corporation. Mr. Allen’s comments are again unwarranted. Unfortunately this very important organization has become a political football for some. In a vote of 4-1, Mr. Allen did vote against the commissioner’s office running the Land Bank. He felt it would be best that SOPA do it. Mr. Allen sits on the Southern Ohio Port Authority appointed by the commissioners. It might be noted that a full vote of the SOPA board backing SOPA’s involvement in the application process never occurred and an approved proposal voted on by the full board was never submitted by SOPA to the Land Bank for consideration. In a recent board meeting the SOPA board chairman even stated publicly that he opposed SOPA’s involvement in the application process. In consideration of these facts the board voted 4-1 to move forward with the commissioner’s office.
Allen brought up the recent activities of the Scioto County Land Reutilization Corporation. Progress is being made on the application in close collaboration with our consultant.
In regards to Frank Lewis’s comments on Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree being unreachable on Tuesday morning. Tuesday mornings contain regular scheduled meetings for the commissioners. These meeting lasted until noon. Mr. Crabtree returned his call afterwards. An attempt by Mr. Lewis to reach the other two commissioners never occurred.
It is unfortunate that so many negative comments have been said in regards to this issue. At no time did Scioto County pursue a position of blame. Scioto County is committed to working with the City of Portsmouth and our hopes are that the error will be discovered and resolved.