City acts on economic development

By Nikki Blankenship -

Portsmouth City Council voted Monday night to approve legislation establishing the City’s own economic development body through the development of a community improvement corporation (CIC). The item was approved during the City Manager’s Conference and is now required to be read at three City Council meetings before it can be passed.

“It will be our SOPA (Southern Ohio Port Authority),” City Solicitor John Haas stated.

Haas and City Manager Derek Allen explained to Council that the development of a CIC is required in order to transfer land to a developer interested in developing City property – specifically interested in the purchase of the former Adelphia building on Washington Street.

The CIC has already been incorporated with the Secretary of State and thus already established. It now takes the vote of Council to enact that CIC as the City’s corporation. If Council passes legislation to enact the CIC under the City, the next step would be to establish a board and bylaws to govern the corporation. Haas explained that the rules and regulations are still being drafted; however, once developed, Council will have final say with bylaws also being approved through Council.

“There is some anticipation that there may be some private financial contributions sent to the CIC,” Allen also informed Council.

The City also plans to submit an application to participate in the Ohio Public Works Commission state capital improvement and/or local transportation improvement program(s), which both provide funding to political subdivisions for capital improvements to public infrastructures.

The City Manager added that the purpose of the development of the CIC is to get the discussed property, which has sat vacant for years, into the hands of a developer.

Allen explained that if the City were to transfer property, such as that on Washington Street, directly, it would have to declare the property as surplus and then put it out to bid. Rather, the City was already working with a developer interested in opening a store at the location. The transfer was originally going to go through SOPA; however, Allen explained that since the re-designation of SOPA by Scioto County Commissioners and the related developments to take place since, including the resignation of SOPA administration and the returning of donated funds at the request of donors, SOPA is no longer an option for the project.

In order to proceed with the project, Allen also asked the City to appropriate $75,000 for demolition and cleanup of the site.

“That wasn’t planned for us to do,” he stated. “It wasn’t in the budget. The original quote that Kester had was for $49,000 from Solid Rock ($32,000 for asbestos abatement and $17 for demolition of the front portion of the building). We’ll see if that person’s still interested or if that’s still good.”

Anything over $50,000 would require the City to solicit for bids. Allen explained that Solid Rock may no longer be interested in the project, in doing the project for the City or in doing to project at the same cost. Furthermore, he stated that he may be able to find another company to do the work for less. The $75,000 appropriation is to ensure costs are covered.

Allen explained that he informed the developer of the City’s timeline. To which, the developer agreed so long as cleanup and demolition is also completed within the timeline. Thus, the City is working to appropriate funds and start cleanup while also working to develop the CIC for the property transfer.

“This was all going through SOPA,” Allen explained. “SOPA was going to handle all the demo, pay for it, then get the sale proceeds (from selling the property) and give us the (remaining) money. All that went out the window, so now we have to do the demo and do the asbestos abatement. We have to to create the CIC and then transfer this property through that to get this to the developer.”

The City had provided $45,000 and a vehicle in support of SOPA’s economic development activities.

“I declined to join in on asking for money back because we got $45,0000 worth of service,” Allen stated before adding that the car, which was used by SOPA’s Economic Development Director Jason Kester, was returned after Kester’s resignation.

When asked how the car would now be purposed, Allen stated, “We might give it to an economic development director if we hire one.”

An ordinance authorizing the hiring of an economic development director at a salary of $70-75,000 annually was given a first reading by Council.

Portsmouth City Council will meet again in regular session at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 23 in Council Chamber on the Second Floor of the Municipal Courthouse in Portsmouth.

By Nikki Blankenship

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.