Harrison CIC deal OK’d

CADIZ – A cooperative agreement between the Harrison County Board of Commissioners and the county’s Community Improvement Corp. was approved Wednesday morning.

County leaders signed the document which allows for the CIC to serve as the agent for the commissioners for the potential transfer of property.

The Harrison County CIC shall receive fifty percent of any profits from land and property sales as compensation for the services to be undertaken during the two-year term of the agreement.

“Basically what we have here is a hopefully approvable to all parties cooperative agreement for economic development,” said Harrison County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Washington, explaining the agreement would outline fee splitting and responsibilities for each of the parties. “Under the Ohio revised Code, in order for any CIC or economic development office to perform certain tasks for the county, they have to put a framework agreement together prior to performing those tasks.

“Within this agreement, there is language which details what the responsibilities of each party are, and that would include a potential transfer of property from the county possession into the title of possession of the CIC,” Washington illustrated. “After that, the CIC can either sell or lease that property for economic development purposes in conjunction with whatever economic development plan they come up with.”

“The major portion of this agreement includes language which allows for the 50/50 distribution from any sale price from real property,” Washington continued.

“The interesting thing is that in this county, we have a situation where the CIC owes a little bit over $200,000 to the county for debts from prior years.” the prosecutor stated. “Twenty percent of the county’s share will go to pay back that indebtedness.”

“The first step in the CIC and the county moving forward is the use of what is now county property but at some point in the future would be CIC property when the county and the commissioners decide that property is no longer useful to the county.” Washington clarified that the county benefits from the agreement, because without the CIC acting as an agent, the county is required to sell property through public bid or auction. “Following those resolutions by the commissioners, the property would be transferred to CIC, then CIC can negotiate to lease or sell as they see fit for the mutual benefit of CIC and the county and for economic development purposes.”

Commissioner Bill Host and Joyce Klingler, agent for the Harrison County Concerned Citizens Organization, questioned the 20 percent pay back coming from the county’s share of sales.

“The debt incurred by the CIC was authorized by the commissioners at the time, and, as such, is basically already the county’s debt,” commission chair Don Bethel explained the CIC is currently funded entirely through grants. “If you think of it in those terms, in essence we are using part of our profits as a method which will allow us to pay ourselves back, pay off that debt and fund the CIC without adding debt to our county budget.”

“We decided on the 50/50 split, but there a lot of places, Cadiz Village is one of them, where the CIC gets 100 percent because they have no other source of funding.” Bethel stated that the CIC could be directly funded through county funds. “This agreement is basically another vessel through which the county is able to fund and promote economic development.”

“It is not like something that we are handing over to the CIC and not have direct involvement in their decisions. All three commissioners sit on the executive board of the CIC, and ultimately, we will still have direct influence and involvement in any decisions made on the sale of county property,” Bethel added. “The money we make from any CIC property sales can be ear marked for community improvement and economic development in the county.”

“For the first six years I was here, we were dirt poor. It looks to me like we are being pretty generous to give them half of our sales like that,” commissioner Host commented. “But at the same time, we need to move forward with somebody working on this economic development, and they can’t do nothing with no money.”

According to Dale Albaugh of the CIC, the county will not charge any property taxes on transferred land until the point of sale to an new individual or lease of the property would generate an income. Albaugh also stated that the CIC would use funds generated to apply for matching grants.

“In the 1960s, the CIC was established pursuant to various statutes. It was incorporated, it technically is a private organization,” Washington said. “That private organization is utilized by the government to perform some things that the government cannot do.”

“If a business walked in this office right now and said, ‘Who’s that 10 acres out there belong to?’ and wanted to buy it off the county, what would be our option a this time?” Bethel asked hypothetically. “We need to have this option to facilitate taking advantage of opportunities when they come up.”

The commissioners also again tabled road use and maintenance agreements from Chesapeake Exploration. Following up on their statements from last week’s meeting during which Ryan Dean, manager for corporate development for Chesapeake Energy, said, “We believe traffic is fully entitled to use the road as long as it is within the legal weight limit.” The gas drilling company’s appendix to the RUMAs was limited to vehicles with more than two axles.

The modification to the agreement was deemed to be unsatisfactory by commissioner Dale Norris. “That still leaves service vehicles, and in the meeting here last week, he just said standard pickup trucks.”

Norris told Doug Crabtree representing the county engineer’s office to send the agreements back to Chesapeake.

The board did approve agreement 33-13 for Ohio gathering LLC for 1.75 mi. of CR 52, 5 mi. of CR 51, 0.6 mi. of CR 19, 1.8 mi. of CR 46 and 0.8 mi. of CR 29. Commissioner Norris explained that he believed that CR 29 had been closed since 2005 but did not object to the agreement based on that concern.

The board also approved two new line items for the Sheriffs Department to fund the newly formed Harrison County Special Response Team.

Palmer may be reached at mpalmer@timesleaderonline.com