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White Elephants

March 29, 2012
Times Leader

A LOT of things can change in a year's time. Just ask Martins Ferry officials.

Last year, Ferry officials were excited about the prospects of new life for the former South School building.

Belmont County commissioners purchased the property for the attractive price of $50,000. Ferry officials accepted the sum as the plan was for the commissioners to relocate Belmont Senior Services' offices to the venue.

It was a win-win scenario.

Commissioners bought the building at an affordable price, and the city was going to benefit from the creation of 50-75 new jobs. Ferry would realize rejuvenated activity as well as money coming into town.

However, some of the best-laid plans never come to fruition. Just ask residents of Martins Ferry.

Belmont County officials opted to pull the plug on the deal. Belmont County Services Services -- now an arm of the county's Department of Job and Family Services -- did not want to continue with the South School project. Commissioners gave their blessing to BSS's wishes.

With that being the case, the commissioners now own the building, and Ferry is on the outside looking in.

Senior Services' levy funds were used to make the purchase of South School. Should commissioners sell the building, profits from the sale would have to go to repaying the levy fund.

Unfortunately, such a transaction does nothing to help Ferry coffers.

IT IS often said history repeats itself.

South School is not the first time Belmont County commissioners used senior levy money to make an ill-fated purchase. Previously, another set of commissioners bought the old Mediterranean Building for $185,000.

The county never utilized the structure and subsequently sold it for $49,500.

It is also said that bad things come in threes. We caution county officials from making any property purchases anytime soon.



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