Port Authority to Challenge Breakup Order

Weirton Area Port Authority officials intend to challenge the port’s recent dissolution by the West Virginia Public Port Authority, Chairman B.J. DeFelice said.

DeFelice told council Monday he believes the state panel violated procedures spelled out in a powers and duties resolution passed in 1999, as well as a 2012 operating agreement. Both require the WVPPA to advise the local port group in advance of termination and stipulate a reason for the action, he said.

He said they still haven’t received the letter officially notifying them of the state board’s decision.

“Until that letter comes, we’ll continue to operate as a port authority, a political subdivision, like we have been,” he said. “We’re also discussing the option to fully privatize, working directly with the state.”

He said WAPA’s challenge is separate from any action Tri-State Port Management, the port’s money making entity, might take.

City Solicitor Vince Gurrera declined comment, saying city officials were “going to wait for direction from the state.”

“As far as we’re aware, we’ve done everything we can to cooperate with the state’s investigation and we will continue to follow the state’s directives,” he said.

DeFelice, meanwhile, said there, “appears to be a conflict of objectives between our political subdivision and the city.”

Weirton Mayor George Kondik several weeks ago petitioned the WVPPA to intervene, citing growing concerns over lawsuits, vendor payments and disputed contracts involving the port.

So far two vendors – Citynet and Kokosing – have filed suit because they haven’t been paid for work done at the port, though the $550,000 Kokosing suit actually names the owners of record of the nearly 6.5-acre property where the work was done, Center Point Terminal and Go Green Recycling.

DeFelice said the earth work Kokosing had been hired to do has not been completed, hence the port’s refusal to pay.

He contends the two companies were sued because they benefited substantially from the work Kokosing had done.

Go Green acquired the property and initially planned to partner with Tri-State Port Management, but when that deal fell through, Center Point acquired the property and planned to eventually resell it to the port in exchange for a parcel its APEX Oil group needed for expansion.

DeFelice said the city’s complaints should be directed at Weirton Area Port Authority Inc., the port’s nonprofit arm, rather than the Weirton Area Port Authority. He said WAPA already sent a letter of deficiency to WINC.

He also questioned why city officials didn’t wait for the results of a state audit, still in progress, that they’d requested in March.