Last updated: July 24. 2013 2:21PM - 183 Views

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Wayne Allen

PDT Staff Writer

When it comes to economic development in Scioto County, there seems to be more questions than answers.

Scioto County has been without an economic development director since the first of the year after Steve Wells, former Scioto County Economic Development Director, announced his retirement at the end of 2012.

When asked about the state of economic development in Scioto County, the county commissioners were uncertain the direction it’s going to go.

Chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners Skip Riffe said, “there is not an official director and whether or not there will be one, who knows.”

When asked if the county is taking steps to hire a director, Riffe said, “ask that question next week when Mr. (Mike) Crabtree (Scioto County Commissioner) is the chair.”

The commissioners are scheduled to hold their organizational meeting on Monday, Jan. 14, when commissioner Mike Crabtree is anticipated to be elected chairman for 2013.

Before his departure, former Scioto County Commissioner Tom Reiser was working to form an organization with public-private partnership for economic development, which included involvement from the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA).

Both Crabtree and Scioto County Commissioner Doug Coleman have been quoted as saying that organization needs to change.

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 choose to do that. We may not even chose to do that, in the first place.”

He said the Port Authority and its 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.”

Then Scioto County Commissioner-elect Coleman was quoted by the Daily Times as saying,”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.”

Earlier this week, SOPA Chairman Mick Sturgill resigned from the board, infuriated by comments made by Scioto County Commissioners which he said were politically motivated.

“With all of the changes and with Steve (Wells) no longer being here, There is going to have to be something done. Whether or not anything happens with this proposed public-private partnership, is yet to be seen or whether or not the county has its own economic development, are questions that need to be answered,” Riffe said.

Riffe said it may take some time before those questions are answered, “I don’t think we’re going to have an answer at the end of this week or next week. I think it’s going to take time,” Riffe said.

Riffe said in the mean time the commissioners will be acting as the county’s economic development officials.

“The only major project still out there is the steel mill. I have not had any recent reports as to where the project stands at the moment. I think Tom (Reiser) is still going to be involved in that, on a volunteer basis,” Riffe said.

With changes pending, Crabtree hopes to keep the drama at a minimum.

“Lets put it this way, whatever happens after next week, I hope we’re not nearly as controversial as a neighbors at city council,” Crabtree said.

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

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