Economic Development

7-Minute Meeting for Columbiana County Port Authority

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — The monthly meetings of Columbiana County Port Authority rarely run more than 20 minutes but the meeting held Monday night was over in seven minutes, one of its shortest ever.

The four directors present adopted one resolution, characterized by CEO Tracy Drake as a “housekeeping matter,” to raise the annual compensation of the manager of finance and administration, Diane L. Ksiazek, retroactive to Aug. 19, to that of her predecessor who retired.

Ksiazek will be paid $72,447.25 a year, a 3% raise, the same increase granted other members of the port authority staff last month. “She’s probably underpaid for what she’s doing,” Drake remarked.

The chairman of the real estate and buildings committee, Brian Kennedy, thanked Farmers National Bank of Canfield “for stepping up to work with the port authority” as the depository bank of the organization.

He also said the port authority is working with DRS LLC of Youngstown to market what is informally known as the “Network Operations Center” building in World Trade Park outside Leetonia. With Consol having closed its area headquarters nearly a year ago, it’s no longer paying rent to the port authority. So the authority has an empty building on which it is making mortgage payments. DRS had occupied part of the building.

Kennedy reported that Pentex, an aluminum extruder with a plant in the industrial park, is proceeding with its 170,000-square-foot expansion.

Nick Amato, chairman of the marketing/education/technology committee, reported on Drake’s participation at the Inland Waterways Users last month. Besides Drake finding that he is the “dean” of the inland port directors – at 20 years, he’s the longest serving of the 400 – the directors learned that inland ports east of the Mississippi expect more traffic because of the labor difficulties at West Coast ports, especially Long Beach, Calif., as stevedores and longshoremen have engaged in work slowdowns and kept large cargo ships at sea waiting to unload.

Work put up for bid Feb. 4 to build a second crane at the Wellsville Intermodal Facility “would double the tonnage of cargo handled [at the facility]”, Amato noted.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Drake said the Inland Waterways Users Board and the National Association of Professional Engineers have told Congress they are willing to see it raise the tax on diesel fuel by 20 cents a gallon if the proceeds would be spent on repairing the locks and dams on the Ohio and Tennessee rivers.

When the infrastructure was built in the 1950s, Drake said, the U.S. system was the best in the world. But the locks and dams, which have a 50-year life, are in need of repair and replacement. The Army Corps of Engineers, in charge of the system, had an annual budget of $5.283 billion for fiscal 2013, a corps press release says, of which $4.731 billion was for “discretionary” spending on civil works programs.

Even if the entire Corps of Engineers annual budget were spent on the locks and dams on the inland waterways, which would pay for about a third of what needs to be done, the National Association of Professional Engineers estimates.

A handout Drake brought back with him cites what the American Association of Port Authorities and the American Society of Civil Engineers say needs to be spent to maintain U.S. ports.

  • “America’s 2010 trade volumes expected to quadruple after 2030.” — AAP
  • “Nearly 80% of AAPA’s U.S. member ports require at least $10 million investment in their landside connectors through 2015; 31% require over $100 million.” AAPA Port Surface Transportation Survey.
  • “A $3 trillion loss to America’s economy is possible if we ignore infrastructure needs in the United States.” – ASCE Failure to Act Report.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.