NEW CUMBERLAND - Hancock County commissioners are defending their purchase of two high school football stadiums even as they prepare to take ownership of the Newell and Weirton properties.
Commissioner Dan Greathouse said at Thursday's commissioners' meeting that the purchase was for economic development purposes only. Greathouse directed his remarks to Hancock County residents who may be wondering why the commissioners decided to buy the stadiums.
"We will offer these sites to potential clients who will create jobs and a tax base for Hancock County," Greathouse said. "Nothing will be developed on those sites that is not for the betterment of this county."
Also Thursday, commissioners approved a revised agreement with the Hancock County school board for the purchase of Newell Memorial Field and the old Jimmy Carey Stadium in Weirton. The revised agreement, the result of a legal review by the school board's attorney, is substantially the same as the one approved by commissioners on Nov. 26, Greathouse said.
"It was just dotting the I's and crossing the T's," he said.
Commissioners and the school board expect to close on the sale in about 10 days, he said. County attorney Bill Fahey said he will use that time to draw up three deeds - one for the Newell stadium, one for the Weirton stadium and one for the oil, gas and mineral rights.
The Hancock County school board voted 3-1 on Nov. 30 to accept the commissioners' offer of $400,000 for both stadium properties. The board had been trying to sell them since June, when they were declared surplus properties. A public auction for the Newell stadium held on Oct. 25 was unsuccessful because the bid came in too low.
Greathouse said commissioners decided to make an offer on the stadiums when it became apparent that there was "no resolution in sight. Concerned citizens approached the commission about rumors for low-income housing on one of the sites. We took this into consideration."
Greathouse said commissioners also were encouraged by the acquisition and reclamation of the old Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery site in Chester. Hancock County, he said, is in desperate need of land for economic development.
"The last three years, many inquiries have come to the Business Development Corporation (of the Northern Panhandle) looking for property in Hancock County for development," he said.
Commissioner Jeff Davis encouraged local developers interested in building on the stadium properties to contact the commissioners' office. "We're willing to entertain any offer," he said. "We're looking to build a tax base and create jobs."
In other business Thursday, commissioners:
* Rescinded the request to re-bid a contract for the replacement of street signs that have been knocked over. The county will use in-house maintenance personnel to install road signs from now on.
* Entered into a contract with the MazurKraemer law firm of Weirton to develop a social media policy for the county. Legal fees are not to exceed $1,500. The new social media policy will eventually become part of the county's employee manual.
* Passed a resolution accepting the conditions of a $1,000 grant for external repairs to the Hancock County Historical Museum.
* Renewed the county's managed vision care contract with Vision Benefits of America through Nov. 30, 2014. The monthly renewal rate is $5.20 per single member and $12.20 per family unit.
* Approved the payment of $710 to retiring chief bookkeeper Joyce Beatty for five unused vacation days.