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Port Authority Approves Rail, Pipeline Study
VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- The Western Reserve Port Authority voted to move forward Wednesday on a contract with Silverlode Consulting Corp. Cleveland, to conduct an airport, rail transload and pipeline feasibility study aimed at seeing how it can play a role in the emerging oil and gas industry.
Under the agreement, Silverlode will be paid a total $29,500 for the study, which is expected to take three months. The port authority’s aviation division will pay $9,853 for its share of the study, and its economic development division and the office of Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith will each pay $9,823.50 toward the study.
The study will identify for the port authority and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which the port authority operates, opportunities regarding the oil and gas industryt, said Rose Ann DeLeon, executive director of the port authority. “We want to look at whether rail keep the trucks off the road,” she continued. “As the oil and gas industry grows and a lot of goods and things are going to be moved around, is it better to do it by rail than through our roads and keeping some of that traffic and wear and tear off our roads?”
There are abandoned rail lines adjacent to the airport, and the question becomes what it would cost to reactivate them, said Sarah Lown, senior director of economic development for the port authority. As some businesses need to be close to highways, “other businesses, they need rail access,” she said. Pipelines will also be explored as part of how the port authority may respond to what officials anticipate to be “significant freight activity that arises from the growing shale play,” she said.
“If the airport can benefit and develop its assets better, we’ll be looking at that, whatever shape that takes,” Lown remarked.
The port authority’s economic development office already is working with a company looking at establishing a distribution center in the Mahoning Valley that would be assisted by the addition of a rail spur, DeLeon said.
The port authority’s board also voted, following an executive session, to authorize legal counsel to begin negotiating the purchase of the nearby air cargo building from Pillar Partners Two, a real estate affiliate of pallet manufacturer Millwood Inc., for $1.075 million, subject to the port authority securing financing. The action followed last month’s vote approving a definitive agreement, “which was basically saying we were planning on moving forward,” said Scott Lynn, port authority chairman. “Today it was an actual motion to move forward,” he said. The port authority is still exploring options for financing but Lynn said he hopes the board will be able to act next month on a purchase.
Dan Dickten, aviation director, said discussions are continuing with Aviation Facilities Co. on a 25-year master lease for the property as well as with a couple of air cargo operators, including one based in Hong Kong.
Dickten, who informed the port authority board about Tuesday’s announcement of a $780,000 U.S. Department of Transportation grant to help attract scheduled daily service, also reported that Allegiant Air, the carrier now providing service to leisure destinations from the airport, may add a new destination, likely in southwest Florida.
Allegiant also is interested in flights from Youngstown-Warren to the Caribbean and Mexico but such service would require a customs and federal inspection facility that would be “very pricey,” he said. “That’s going to be a tough nut to crack,” he said. The carrier is acquiring nine Airbus 319 aircraft, which would have a range of 3,400 nautical miles. “Both we and Allegiant feel this could get us to Las Vegas in the next six months to a year,” Dickten said.
The board voted to revoke a $7,500 bonus, awarded to Dickten last month, following public reaction that included the Trumbull County Commissioners voting to take back 1% of its sales tax that it allocates to the port authority. Members voted 5-2 in favor of rescinding the bonus, with members Don Hanni III and Andreas Visnapu voting no.
Dickten deserved the bonus, which “doesn’t even begin to compensate him accordingly,” Hanni said following the meeting.
The port authority also voted following the executive session to enter into an agreement with the law firm of Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell, Youngstown, to explore potentially leasing oil and gas drilling rights on its property.
Copyright 2012 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.