The Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) board approved two refunds Thursday during their board meeting, with more refunds potentially on the horizon.
The first refund went to Andy Glockner, who had written a $75,000 check three years ago for SOPA to use for economic development. That money was never used and Glockner requested to transfer that money to the Scioto Foundation.
After a lengthy discussion regarding the refund, Scioto County Commissioner Cathy Coleman asked the board why they were pulling their money from the Port Authority when they had the opportunity to continue their work. Coleman reiterated that the Port Authority was still in effect, just under a new direction, which has yet to be determined by the board.
“I’ve lost confidence in all of us,” Glockner responded to Coleman’s question. “We’re all a part of this. It’s a two-way street.”
The second company to request their donation back was Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC). SOPA Chairman Bud Sayre read a letter signed by President and CEO of SOMC Randy Arnett. Part of that letter stated, ” … With the recent announcements of the Scioto County Commissioners requesting SOPA no longer represent the county for economic development activities and the only two employed SOPA’s employees giving their resignation, SOMC requests a return of its $25,000.”
Chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners Bryan Davis said it’s unfortunate certain entities, such has SOMC, have decided to withdrawal their donations from SOPA.
“We are one week post changing our relationship, we’re not even that, from (Jason Kester) resigning,” Davis said. “Our economic development plans will be revealed very, very soon. I would hope they would have given more time, but I do not run SOMC and that is their decision of course, 100 percent.”
Craig Gilliland, administrative director of finance and business development at SOMC, reiterated SOMC’s commitment to contributing to organizations instrumental in economic development in Scioto County.
“When the commissioners elected last week to not have SOPA be its economic development voice anymore and the only two employees of SOPA resigned, SOMC wants to make sure the monies it gave toward economic development go toward economic development,” Gilliland said in a statement. “SOMC is requesting its donation back so that SOMC can then give it toward economic development via some other agency or activity.”
With the uncertainty of SOPA, OSCO and Appalachian Wood Flooring have expressed interest in obtaining refunds for donations they made toward economic development.
Sayre said with the recent decision by the Commissioners to activate their own economic agenda, that has left the SOPA board in disarray.
“I think the Commissioners made that decision when they said we are now a bonding agency,” Sayre said. “That’s all we are. They’ve basically taken any kind of economic development away from us. So, the future of this board is really in flux. For the work that we’ve done and the work that (former executive director) Jason Kester has done, I don’t see that happening with this board anymore.”
As far as the Commissioners’ economic agenda, Davis said they will be unveiling their plan in the near future.
“The commissioners don’t do anything without a plan,” Davis said. “What we want everybody to understand is that economic development is going to continue going forward. Economic development is going to thrive. Everything that has been done has been communicated openly to the public. They should feel hopeful that the decisions the County Commissioners are making are in the best interest of the taxpayers of this county.
“We are acutely aware of what has transpired, things the public may not know but we have our fingers on the pulse of economic development in this county. We know what’s going on. We know who the players are and we are taking the steps to make sure that we don’t lose traction, that we don’t lose pace. The hope is that we move forward at an even greater speed, that we see even greater successes.”
Davis reiterated that the Commissioners aren’t afraid to make the call, even if it’s not popular.
“There are people that have said, ‘You’ll never be able to do it.’ Certain people are irreplaceable.’ Well, watch and see. We have proven in the past, that we will make very difficult decisions in order to move the ball forward.”
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1927, or on Twitter @crslone.