Council tables hiring of economic development director

By Nikki Blankenship -

Portsmouth City Council met Monday night when they made an unexpected decision. Council started the meeting by going into executive session to discuss the hiring of a City employee and discuss the reprimand of another employee. When Council returned from executive session, they voted to table an ordinance up for passage that would authorize the hiring of an economic development director and set the pay of that position between $70,000-$75,000.

During his report, City Solicitor John Haas explained that he had introduced former Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) Economic Development Director Jason Kester at the most recent Portsmouth Rotary meeting and had introduced Kester as the new economic development director for the City.

“There may be some disappointed people when they find out that didn’t happen today,” Haas stated to Council.

“I should have a new LinkedIn update sometime later this week or next that will probably surprise a lot of people. Whatever I do, less ridiculousness and more time with my family in Columbus are my main drivers,” Kester commented.

During the meeting, Council also gave a second reading to an ordinance authorizing the establishment of the Portsmouth Community Improvement Corporation (PCIC), which will be the new economic development body for the City. Council also gave a second reading to an ordinance authorizing the transfer of City-owned property located at 807 Washington Street for the purpose of redevelopment to the PCIC.

As the year ends, and the City prepares for a new fiscal year, budgetary issues were also given consideration. City Council gave a first reading on legislation to authorize City Auditor Trent Willliams to amend appropriations to reflect actual revenues and expenditures in order to balance and close the City’s financial books for fiscal year 2017.

During the City Manager’s Conference Agenda, the 2018 budget was slated as the first item; however, it will be discussed at next Council meeting instead.

Instead of addressing the budget on Monday night, Council authorized the City Clerk to gather information regarding the live streaming of all Council meetings on Facebook as a means of increasing transparency. First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson explained that Lawrence County Commissioners currently live stream their meetings. City Clerk Diana Ratcliff has been asked to look into the technology required and associated costs; however, Allen explained that live streaming meetings would not be cost prohibitive.

Councilman Gene Meadows directed Council’s attention to the issue of raises for all non-union employees. Municipal Judges Steve Mowery and Russell Kegley addressed Council about the needs for court employees. Though union employees have had raises, non-union employees such as those employed with the courts have not.

Meadows suggested that the City prepare legislation that would give non-union employees raises for the start of 2017 with back-pay to be paid by Dec. 15 and to give raises annually to all non-union employees as a rate equivalent to the highest raises given to union employees.

“It’s uncalled for that they (non-union employees) went since 2009 without a raise,” Meadows stated. “We can fix that.”

Council voted to authorize the preparation of such legislation and will present it at the next Council meeting.

Portsmouth City Council will meet again at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 11 in Council Chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building on Second Street in Portsmouth.

By Nikki Blankenship

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

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