Rift between commissioners sparks debate

Chris Dunham, PDT Sports Writer

December 20, 2012

Wayne Allen

PDT Staff Writer

The issue of reappointing four members of the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) came up at Thursday’s commissioner’s meeting and caused a bit of a rift between the three members.

The four people up for reappointment were Kenny Ruggles, Ann Sydnor, Jim Warren and C.B. Herman.

When the issue arose commissioner, Mike Crabtree made a motion to delay a vote on the reappointments until commissioner elect Doug Coleman could take office and have a say.

Commissioner Reiser did not want to wait and made a motion to reappoint the four people. The motion was seconded by commissioner Skip Riffe and was passed.

“I don’t think that reappointing anyone two weeks before a new commissioner comes in, is all together proper,” Crabtree said. “I like Tom and Skip. They are both friends of mine, but the reality is Tom lost the election and people are looking for some kind of a change and they elected Doug Coleman. I don’t think it’s proper for a man who’s already lost the election to make an appointment that going to last for two, three or four years.”

He said nobody thought he would win the election and Doug was not supposed to win.

“Nobody thought I was going to win the election. I was not supposed to win, Doug was not supposed to win. But, we did win, we got the most votes. I think Doug and I should have a voice in whatever goes on. After (Jan. 8) if we reappointed those people so be it, I don’t care,” Crabtree said. “Your only looking a two weeks. Next week is mostly Christmas, New Years and all of that. They (SOPA) are not going to have any high level meetings between now and the first of the year. I think that was a ploy on the part of Tom and them to keep the same people in there.”

Reiser said he believes the future of economic development for the county will come with the help of the Port Authority.

“When we get down to where we want to go with this, they (SOPA) are going to have to be the major player. Does that mean the Port Authority will be the same people and the same organization it is right now? The same people may be on the Port Authority, but the organization will have to change. There will likely have to be some changes made for possibly more members. If you go to a public-private organization those people are going to want representation,” Reiser said.

Crabtree said there may or may not be some changes in the future to the Port Authority.

“I don’t know about a public-private partnership or if that would be proper to do. I know there’s been some talk about approaching the commissioners for some money to fund that board. I don’t know if we can do that legally or not,” Crabtree said. “All of these things would have to be looked at by the prosecutor to make sure that type of thing would be on the up-and-up if we chose to do that. We may not even chose to do that, in the first place.”

Crabtree is slated to become chairman of the commissioners next year.

“Personally, the only thing I want to do is what’s in the best interest of the county. I don’t have no interest in vendettas or anything like that. I’m not here to get revenge on someone who may not have supported me in the election. I’ve got a job to do and that job is to be commissioner for the next four years. I’m going to do that job the best I can,” Crabtree said. “What happens after the first of the year remains to be seen. We are taking a look at all of the boards and we’re going to do what’s proper for the county, you can count on that. We are going to do these things to the best of our ability and I think that’s expected of us.”

He said jobs is going to be his number one pursuit.

“We want to peruse good paying jobs for southern Ohio. If you decrease desperation you decrease crime, poverty and everything else that goes with it. That’s going to be our pursuit,” Crabtree said. “If that’s what is going to be with the Port Authority as it exists today, that remains to be seen. I can tell you we have our ideas. We’re going to look at a lot of things over the next few weeks. Where things need to be changed we’re going to make those changes, in the best interest of Scioto County.”

He said the Port Authority and it’s membership are being looked at.

“We’re looking at the representation. We’ve got members that are union people, We’ve got members who are community leaders, we’ve got a diversity. But, we’re going to look at all of those things and if we feel it’s necessary we may make changes,” Crabtree said. “Now the responsibility is on us and we are going to have to get out there and prove that we can step up to the plate.”

Commissioner-Elect Doug Coleman issued the following statement on the issue:

“There is also a transition team updating me on what issues will be on the front burner when I take office. I feel prepared to hit the ground running. I want to primarily focus my energy on the urgent matter of economic development. I have read the articles highlighting outgoing Commissioner Reiser’s recent interest in economic development and I agree that the county has been a ship without a rudder for too long.

“I have definite ideas on what we need to do, including finding a qualified economic development staff and revamping the Southern Ohio Port Authority.

“SOPA needs a complete overhaul and Mike and I will start that process on day one. I believe the county has the necessary tools to aggressively pursue economic development. Those tools just need to be used properly. However, I want to be clear that I am and always will be open to new ideas. The recent statement by outgoing Commissioner Reiser indicates that he wants to establish a new economic development approach. Some of those ideas may be good ones and they will be evaluated on their merits. I regret the new interest in economic development only materialized at the end of his term. I feel the citizens elected me to provide new leadership, and I will not accept being hamstrung by the outgoing administration when it comes to economic development. The county needs constructive change and that is what I aim to deliver.”

Coleman will be sworn into office at the Scioto County Courthouse on December 28th at 2 p.m.

Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or wallen@heartlandpublications.com.