Just One Shows Up For Public Meeting

Just one member of the public joined Ohio County commissioners Thursday night for a required public hearing to discuss a second interchange at The Highlands.

Commissioner Tim McCormick opened the meeting, then asked three times if any member of the public had any questions or comments about the proposed project. Mark Sikora of HDR Engineering in Weirton had none, and commissioners quickly adjourned the meeting.

Ohio County commissioners have submitted an application to the West Virginia Economic Development Office seeking to expand the Tax Increment Financing district at The Highlands, and the public hearing Thursday night was a requirement of the application process.

Sen. Robert “Rocky” Fitzsimmons, D-Ohio, introduced Senate Bill 439, legislation to increase the land encompassed by the Fort Henry economic opportunity development project district from 300 to 500 acres. The measure is being considered by the Senate Finance Committee Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, has said he will not advance the bill until the application submitted by Ohio County officials is approved by the state Economic Development Office.

Passage of the bill by the West Virginia Legislature would provide the commission the means to fund a second exit from The Highlands property to Interstate 70. A portion of the sales tax dollars generated in the TIF district would stay with the Ohio County Development Authority, which would use the funds to pay for construction of a second interchange there.

“We are anxiously awaiting their (the state Economic Development Office’s) decision,” McCormick said.

McCormick, Commissioner Orphy Klempa and County Administrator Greg Stewart traveled to Charleston last week to meet with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, to discuss the need for the second interchange at The Highlands.

Both Tomblin and Miley seemed receptive to the idea, Klempa said Thursday.