$1.4M in Grants Support 2 Ohio River Dock Projects

LISBON, Ohio — Two East Liverpool companies will benefit from more than $1.4 million in grant funding secured by the Columbiana County Port Authority, allowing the firms to complete projects worth nearly $3 million for their operations on the Ohio River.

Port authority Executive Director Penny Traina announced during Monday’s monthly board meeting that $1,430,695 in Ohio Maritime Assistance Program grant funding has been approved for projects at the S.H. Bell Co. and Parsons Terminal Co.

At S.H. Bell, located on the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania – half of its 92 acres are in each state – plans call for spending $2,011,391 to expand the existing barge unloading dock by 35 feet. The current dock was built with a 20-year life span which has now been exceeded, Traina said. The new surfacing and dock extension will increase the company’s unloading efficiency and capacity, she added. 

The company is required to fund half, or $1,005,695, of the project, with grant funding used for the remaining amount. 

At Parsons Terminal’s Jackson Street site along the river, an $850,000 project will allow for resurfacing a portion of an existing dock about 20,180 square feet and purchasing two new Case front end loaders.

Traina told the board the newly surfaced concrete area will allow cranes to fully travel the length of the dock, which is currently not possible, increasing the number of barges which can be unloaded at one time. The front end loaders will be used to remove material from the dock to storage. 

Parsons is also required to fund 50% of its project, or $425,000, with the maritime grant funding paying the remainder. 

Traina said after the meeting the Columbiana County Port Authority will administer the grant and serve as the pass-through for the funds. It must also pay for the grant portion of the projects up front, with reimbursement made from the grant.

For that reason, the board took steps during the meeting to adjust the annual budget to reflect payment for the projects until reimbursement can be made from the grant.

The port authority is currently awaiting the grant agreements from Ohio Department of Transportation, after which the board will begin the bidding process for the two projects, Traina said.

The Ohio Maritime Assistance Program, she said, is the first ODOT significant source of funds dedicated exclusively for water-based freight infrastructure in decades.

The program has available $23 million in funding for eligible Ohio port authorities on Lake Erie and the Ohio River. 

“The creation of the Ohio Maritime Assistance Program will allow the port authority to increase the capability of cargo handling to facilitate commerce in this rapidly growing region,” she said. “Columbiana County moved 2.3 million tons of cargo on the Ohio River in 2018.

“The Ohio River hasn’t been well marketed, and now we’re getting some traction,” she continued. “As we look to the future with the petrochemical industry, the Ohio River will play an integral part.”

She specifically offered a commendation to the General Assembly and ODOT for “their vision in creating this program to increase cargo handling on Ohio’s waters,” giving special credit to Mark Locker, ODOT’s manager of freight, maritime and logistics, for his support in navigating through the grant process.

Due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the reduction of $775 million from the state’s general fund, an Industry Sector Partnering Grant for which the port authority had applied was not awarded and will not be funded this year, Traina reported. 

She advised the board if funding is available for the next fiscal year, applications already received will be scored with funds awarded according to program guidelines.

Funds from the grant are earmarked for educating students at the middle school level about available trades, since not all students are bound for college.

Pictured: S.H. Bell Co. will use its funds from the Columbiana County Port Authority to expand its barge dock.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.