The OK Road Bridge is posted at four tons.

The OK Road Bridge is posted at four tons.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The local committee for District 18 met Wednesday in preparation for Round 28 of Issue 2 funding to rank, prioritize and award points to area projects before sending them on to be reviewed at the district level at Marietta.

The meeting also saw the appointment of Assistant County Engineer Mike Wall as the fifth committee member, joining Engineer Fred Bennett, Commissioner Charles R. Probst, Jr., Powhatan Mayor Mark McVey and Richland Township Trustee Greg Bizzarri.

Bennett was named chair, with Bizzarri as vice chair and Probst as secretary.

As a result of the meeting, two county projects ranked first and second place. The North 26 road paving project received an added 75 points, while the proposed repairs to bridges on County Road 54, or OK Road, and County Road 56, or Pipe Creek Road, came in second place with 65 points. Martins Ferry's proposed street paving project received 55 points and Powhatan Point's road resurfacing project received 45 points.

Projects from Bellaire, Barnesville, Bethesda and Brookside were also represented. The village administrator of Bellaire spoke about the importance of their project in terms of future economic development.

Bizzarri noted that the Township Trustees Association had opted to forego applying for funding this year so that more funds could be available for county engineering projects. Commissioner Matt Coffland was credited for originating the idea.

Wall noted the importance of the North 26 paving project. He pointed out that gas and oil trucks often utilize this route but are not re-paving it. Also, further well development is anticipated in that area.

Representatives of St. Clairsville City School District spoke in favor of the bridge replacement projects, noting the daily cost of the school district, since the buses must go miles out of their way to bypass the bridge on OK Road.

Wall also pointed out that the cost of bridges has increased. He said the bridges are in poor condition. The Pipe Creek Road Bridge has been given additional support but has a limit of eight tons and could go down in a storm. He added that bridge replacement must be bid out by state law.

"This is the county engineer's number one project," he said. "Our number one priority in the county is the bridges."

He said there are 90 low-limit bridges in the county. Seven bridges have been replaced this year so far, and more low-limit bridges are expected come spring.

Martins Ferry was ranked third. The city's project had been fourth in total points, with 410 points to Powhatan Point's 415. Martins Ferry Development Director Kathy Gagin noted that this was mainly due to the 20-year useful life ranking of Powhatan Point's project compared to Martins Ferry's 10-year useful life, but that the city had been informed that the maximum allowable useful life for a project was 10 years. She said originally the city had planned a 30-year useful life project.

Martins Ferry Mayor Paul Riethmiller asked the committee to consider the importance of the paving project of Zane Highway. He pointed out that the street is the main transport route of several major businesses, as well as school buses, and the East Ohio Regional Transport Authority, police, EMS and firefighters. The highway is also an emergency evacuation route should State Route 7 be shut down and traffic be diverted.

Martins Ferry Safety Director William Suto pointed out the high use of the route.

EMA Director David Ivan seconded the importance of an evacuation route, pointing out the presence of hazardous substances in facility processing systems near Martins Ferry.

Coffland also spoke about the importance of the project, noting the loan of $150,000 the city had taken out for the work.

Bennett noted the merit of the city's project carried weight. Coffland pointed out that Martins Ferry's project received five total votes in all ranking categories while Powhatan Point received three.

McVey noted this was a break in the past years' practice of ranking projects in order of points accrued. He noted the expenses incurred by the citizens of Powhatan Point in terms of a $5 permissive fund tax to meet the match.

Committee members encouraged those villages that did not receive a ranking to apply for Small Government assistance. Coffland said applications would have the commissioners' support.

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