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New Economic Development could benefit school district

Photo by Tyler Bennett Jesse Roush, Executive Director of the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority, speaks during the Fort Frye Local Schools Board of Education meeting on Thursday evening.

BEVERLY — The Fort Frye Local Schools Board of Education listened to information regarding a potential new economic development in the region and how it could benefit the Fort Frye school district Thursday evening.

The school board heard from Jesse Roush, Executive Director of the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority regarding a partnership between SEOPA and Belpre Industrial Parkersburg Railroad which recently bought the former American Electric Power Muskingum River Power Plant in Washington County.

Covering 165 acres of the former facility, the property is in two counties, Washington and Morgan.

SEOPA is a public-private partnership receiving an annual appropriation from Washington County, along with contributions from businesses and individuals, which help fund its economic development efforts. SEOPA focuses primarily on on-site and infrastructure development to attract and retain businesses and jobs, along with conduit financing, and advocacy on behalf of the county, Roush said.

The former AEP site offers the potential to have one large development project, but Roush is hoping to have five separate projects. Those included a transloading area that will store bulk fertilizer and lime or logs and lumber depending on the season.

Another is a 15-acre project that will be a methanol producer and will produce 20 to 25 jobs.

Roush is asking for a two-year, 100 percent tax abatement on the property in the school district. He said it’s not necessarily a business attraction mechanism, but as a “help me, help you” mechanism as getting this project off the ground and running will make the area in the school district more appealing for the new business.

“Every penny I spent on real estate taxes while we own this property, it’s money I can’t put back in that property. That two-year window is probably what it’s going to take us to actually land a project that starts to pay us money and starts to pay their own real estate taxes,” Roush said. “This is the type of facility in this community and the Wolf Creek community that they don’t have to go to Columbus or Cleveland or somewhere else to find these types of jobs.”

When asked by Board vice president Lloyd Booth why he is asking for a two-year abatement and not five or 10 years, Roush said his focus on the project is short-term and he just trying to get the project started.

Fort Frye Superintendent Stephanie Starcher said it is important the school district pursue economic development in the region.

“I think Fort Frye will do what we can to help the Port Authority in this venture and consider the tax abatement or whatever type of legal arrangement that they might propose,” Starcher said. “We definitely should consider that because we know that it would benefit our region, our community as well as be a source of tax for the district as well.”

The board unanimously approved a motion to adopt and purchase the “Big Ideas Learning” curriculum (grade K-5) program for six years in the amount of $49,423.50 through Cengage Learning Products. The approval to purchase 430 Chromebooks from SHI in the amount of $107,693.50 for the 2021-2022 school year also passed unanimously.

Starcher said the district’s five-year contract will expire after this school year and will need up-to-date Chromebooks to continue using the program.

The next BOE meeting will be on March 18, at Salem-Liberty Elementary School.

Contact Tyler Bennett at tbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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