Port boss defends work

EAST LIVERPOOL – Columbiana County Port Authority Chief Executive Officer Tracy Drake said they have assisted with the Riverview Florist project and will continue to do so, the recent comments of a city official notwithstanding.

Drake was contacted by the Journal following comments made by East Liverpool Community Improvement Corp. board member Fred Kane at a recent CIC meeting about efforts to develop the former Riverview Florist property in the city. At the meeting, Kane said a port authority member who is no longer on the board indicated to him they would not help with the project until the city puts in roads and extends water and sewer service to the property, which is located in East Liverpool.

“I don’t think we can count on them for support,” Kane said.

Drake was taken aback by the comments. “We’ve been working with the city and the CIC for a while (to develop the property), so I was little surprised by what (Kane) said,” Drake said.

He pointed out the port authority spent over $5,000 on a preliminary environmental analysis of the Riverview Florist property but has been unable to take the next step and seek a state grant to fund a complete analysis until they find a business to commit. The state will award these grants under the Clean Ohio program only if the project directly results in job creation and not the promise of new jobs.

Drake said they were in serious talks with an information technologies company about building a facility at Riverview Florist. “We made an all-out blitz to get them but that didn’t happen,” he said.

The biggest problem is the appearance of the property, greenhouses in particular, which Drake said must be addressed by the city for it to be marketed properly.

“We’ve been working with the city, but I believe the first task that needs done is to get greenhouse area, which is dilapidated and falling in, cleaned up,” he said.

The property is divided into two large tracts – one 30 acres in size and the other 40 acres -separated by a gully. Drake said both are relatively flat and ideal for development, but they are located behind the dilapidated greenhouse, which is why it has to go.

“We’ve been working hand-in-glove with the city, just like we have with Wellsville and other communities, trying to help them. That’s our job,” Drake said.

In related news, Drake confirmed the port authority had contributed $5,000 to the downtown East Liverpool revitalization project being undertaken by the city in conjunction with Better City LLC. The donation came to light at the same CIC meeting Kane made his comments.

The contribution was never approved by the port authority board. “I believe it was discussed but we decided it didn’t have to be run through a meeting,” he said.