Officials outline possible JEDD

EAST PALESTINE — A clearer picture of how a possible Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) with Unity Township would work took shape during a meeting on Monday.

Village officials outlined the process for those of the public who turned out to ask questions.

In a JEDD, businesses within a designated area of the township included in the JEDD would pay a 1.5 percent income tax to the village that would go into a fund to pay for water and sewer infrastructure provided by the village that would be available to both businesses and township residents.

Revenue from the income tax on township businesses in the JEDD and potential future grants would cover the cost of the infrastructure, meaning that it would be provided at not cost to the village of East Palestine or its residents.

The JEDD would only be for a portion of the township and not the entire township.

The village is seeking a JEDD with the township in order to promote economic growth in the area, making it more of a destination as opposed to a pass-through, Councilman DJ Yokley said.

Yokley also said that a JEDD opens up more grant opportunities in addition to attracting more business to the area with the new infrastructure.

The village is considering extending a water line from the Covington nursing home to the corner of Brookdale Avenue and state Route 14, with the sewer line extended behind the nursing home.

At this point a preliminary JEDD agreement has been put before Unity Township trustees and their attorney to consider, although a few other things still need to be ironed out.

For example, one question brought up by a member of the public during the meeting was whether an East Palestine resident who has a business in the township would pay taxes twice – the 1.5 percent income tax for the JEDD and the village’s 1.5 percent income tax.

(The village’s income tax is separate from the JEDD tax and goes specifically into the village’s general fund, with a portion designated for the police and fire departments.)

Village officials, including Solicitor Dave Powers, were not sure what would happen if a village resident has a business in the JEDD. They agreed that some research would need to be done to determine what would happen in that instance.

Acting Mayor Alan Cohen said that could potentially be negotiated in the JEDD agreement.

Another question brought up during the meeting was how many township residents would be required to tap in to the water and sewer service once it is extended.

Councilman Doug Simpson said that the Environmental Protection Agency requires anyone living within 200 feet of a sewer line to tap into that line.

Those who tap in to the utilities, including businesses in the JEDD, would still need to pay the required tap-in fees, which would go into the village’s water and sewer funds.

Powers pointed out that any tap-in fees would likely be less costly than the cost to repair a failing septic system, which can be close to $10,000.

A couple who own a business in the township expressed concerns during the meeting about how long businesses in the JEDD would need to pay the income tax before seeing the infrastructure installed.

Cohen said there is a possibility that a loan could be taken out with income tax revenue so that the water and sewer lines could be installed sooner as opposed to waiting until enough is available to cover the project.

Cohen stressed during the meeting that the village will not force anyone to participate in the JEDD.

“The people in the JEDD will decide who will be in the JEDD,” he said.

Before a JEDD can be established, it must have approval from the majority of those included in the JEDD area.

Cohen said that the JEDD map can also be drawn to exclude anyone who does not want to participate.