ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The Belmont County Prosecutor's Office will represent the county in legal matters involving the Mall Road/U.S. 40 connector road project following an act by county commissioners Thursday.
Commissioners voted 2-1 to substitute the county prosecutor's office as the county's legal representation in place of the Columbus law firm of Isaac Wiles, which previously was retained by the county. Commissioners Mark Thomas and Matt Coffland voted in favor, while Ginny Favede voted in opposition.
Favede has favored hiring private legal counsel for matters pertaining to the connector road , saying there are "too many people involved in this case that have something to gain for it to not be viewed as a conflict of interest."
She and former commissioner Chuck Probst voted in November to retain the Isaac Wiles firm.
"The move to hire Aaron Glascow (attorney with Isaac Wiles) to represent the taxpayers of Belmont County was the best decision for the board," she said.
On Nov. 20, Glascow filed a motion with the Belmont County Common Pleas Court asking the court to examine its 1999 ruling directing Lou Stein and Home Pro Enterprises to pay for the construction of a connector road from U.S. 40 to property owned by Stein adjacent to the Ohio Valley Plaza. No development was ever started on the land, and the road projected was never initiated by Stein.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is now asking Belmont County to transfer $1.9 million to start construction of the connector road that would begin near the All Fore One miniature golf course along U.S. 40, then extend west of the Ohio Valley Plaza behind Sam's Club and wind behind the Lowe's Home Improvement store. It would link up with a roadway being constructed behind the Ohio Valley Mall by the Cafaro Co., owners of the mall, and an ODOT project to extend the new highway to Mall Road.
Thomas initially made a motion at a commission meeting on Monday to withdraw the county's motion in the lawsuit. He added the Isaac Wiles law firm has billed the county $8,981 since taking the case in November.
Favede, though, told him it was a "responsible use of taxpayer dollars" to make certain "a party other than the county" wasn't responsible for constructing the road, and that it was important be involved in the matter.
On Thursday, Thomas amended his motion to eliminate the private legal representation in the lawsuit, and substitute the Belmont County Prosecutor's Office.