New Chief Wants Fresh Look at CCPA Operations

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – Since she became executive director of the Columbiana County Port Authority last month, Penny J. Traina has been a blend of energy, organization and documentation.

She has sent out 198 letters to elected officials, civic, business and professional organizations, law firms, banks, schools and hospitals, calling on at least 60 of them in person to introduce herself. With Diana Ksiazek, chief financial officer, she has begun a review all contracts the port authority has signed. And she has set in motion audits of the conditions of the properties the port authority owns.

Traina has invited the mayors of the 13 cities and villages within the county to participate in a round table at 10 a.m. May 5 in the headquarters of the port authority, she informed her board Monday night.

She believes that once officeholders and business owners have a fuller understanding of the role the Columbiana County Port Authority plays in economic development, they will seek its help in projects that will improve their businesses and the business climate.

Because of the higher than expected utility bills, Traina intends to conduct energy audits of port authority properties – “The gas and electric bills are exorbitant,” she told her board, “nearly 10% of the budget” — and assess the condition of the cranes it owns in Wellsville and Leetonia.

Mitsubishi and HK Technologies lease space in Leetonia and use 23 cranes the port authority owns. Traina wants a report on their status and to create a capital improvements fund.

Such a fund would pay for routine maintenance and repairs, she said, unlike the present system that she described as “putting band-aids on the problems.”

Afterward, Traina told reporters, she has no set amount in mind as to the size of a capital improvements fund, noting the matter must first be presented to the port authority board.

In January, the board decided to suspend paying for advertising, a decision Nike Amato reinforced Monday night when he concluded his report, “Until further notice, the board has decided to suspect all advertising expenditures.”

Amato is chairman of the marketing/education/technology committee.

Paid advertising has run between $30,000 and $35,000 annually the last three years, Ksiazek estimated. All items in the budget, Traina stressed, are under review.

While she can’t spend money to advertise, Traina wants to get word out about the 19 spaces in the port authority headquarters building, 1250 St. George St., that she says would make good offices for small companies or startups. “We’re looking for tenants,” she said. “We have seven offices and the first floor and 12 on the second.”

The board amended the 2016 budget, which it adopted in February, last night to reflect both the higher utility expense and the prepayment of taxes on properties leased to Quality Liquid Feed and Hilcorp in Wellsville.

Rent from both companies will pay the taxes owned the county, Traina and Ksiazek explained to reporters, as they clarify what the county is owed.

Interest payments are also consuming more of this year’s budget than projected late last year. That item is now budgeted at $110,000, $70,000 more than projected, because the port authority assumed sale of the property in the Leetonia Industrial Park, where AMP intends to build a factory, would close early this year. It assumed it would make only one interest payment on the $3.7 million loan.

The sale, assuming AMP remains interested in locating in Columbiana County – it originally wanted to build in Fairfield Township – won’t close until August.

Pictured: Penny Traina, executive director of the Columbiana County Port Authority.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.