Jefferson County Commissioners Consider Creating Emergency Fund For Infrastructure

Jefferson County commissioners this week said they may set aside county money every year to help villages and townships in emergency infrastructure projects, the first of which may be to repair a retaining wall in Irondale.

Commissioners received a letter from Irondale Mayor William Allen about the concrete wall along a creek, which suffered damage during a flood in November. Allen said the road above the retaining wall had to be closed, which is used everyday by residents, school buses and emergency services.

County Engineer James Branagan said the cost to fix the wall is about $167,200, but the engineer can’t use his department’s money inside an incorporated area.

Allen contacted Ohio Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, about securing an Ohio Public Works Commission grant. Cera was able to secure $150,480, leaving $16,000 to be paid. The village can only put up $10,000, and Allen asked the commissioners for the remaining $6,000.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said the county would do everything allowed by law to help.

The county sets aside a portion of the piggyback sales tax for the county’s emergency fund.

County Commissioner David Maple said the commissioners could set aside about $50,000 a year to help villages and townships with emergency infrastructure repairs. That would be contingent on the health of the county budget in a given year, he noted.

Commissioners will get an opinion from the county prosecutor’s office about the legality of such a contribution.

Graham said the contribution would be the same as the commissioners giving money to cities, villages and townships for recreation projects, but that contribution was included in the ballot language when county voters approved the additional piggyback sales tax.

Commissioners were informed by Michael Eroshevich, county water and sewer director, that the Ohio State Historical Preservation Office is requiring the county do a study of the historical significance of the old water tank to the village of Smithfield.

County officials are working to replace the Smithfield water tank, built in 1938. It was taken out of service last year due to ongoing leaks. The county will demolish the tank and build a larger tank at a cost of $1.8 million.

Construction of the new 200,000-gallon tank is almost ready to go to bid. It will be located behind the county highway department garage off Ohio 151.

Eroshevich said the project will move forward but there is a question on the demolition of the old tank.