Port members disagree

VIENNA – A Western Reserve Port Authority member on Wednesday questioned why the board chairman executed the purchase of a building without prior board approval.

The questioning at the port authority’s regular monthly public meeting stemmed from a sheriff’s sale purchase earlier this month. Port authority Chairman James Floyd placed a winning bid of $250,000 on behalf of the port authority for a structure that will be leased to Mahoning County for use by the Mahoning County Dog Pound.

But Wednesday, board member Don Hanni raised concerns that Floyd made the purchase with a blank check that had been signed by two board members without consent or vote by the full board. He asked the board’s lawyer to prepare language for the board to consider a correction as to the allocation and appropriation of funds.

Floyd responded that the handling of the purchase was consistent with past board action, noting it is sometimes necessary when dealing with competitive bidding for the board to ratify the purchase at a later time. Floyd further asked the board to consider a ratification as opposed to a correction.

The board adopted the motion as a ratification, with Hanni abstaining.

“He took it upon himself to act. That was wrong,” Hanni said after the meeting.

While Hanni said he fully supports the project, he believes the purchase should have been handled differently. “I was the one that brought the project to the board,” he said.

Floyd said, “There’s nothing that has been done wrong here.”

In a separate issue, Hanni also questioned the job description and daily duties of the port authority’s senior economic development manager Sarah Lown, who last month received a $3,500 increase in salary as well as a 2013 year-end bonus of $3,000.

Hanni said he had made a formal records request two weeks ago of Lown, asking for a detailed description of her job. Lown said she is still working to complete his request.

Floyd said Hanni’s push for the records request constitutes a form of harassment and said Hanni’s motives may be more personal in nature.

“They’re only designed to harass her because he has a personal disdain for her,” Floyd said following the meeting.

Hanni said he wants to know what she does for her $70,000 salary.

Mahoning County Commissioner David Ditzler spoke during the public comments section of the meeting, suggesting that the board members be more focused on positive development rather than personal attacks. He said the port authority should try to work more positively as a team to accomplish its directives.

In other business, the board approved a plan to seek a grant that, if approved, would be used to construct an access road to a new development area on the airport property’s south side along state Route 193 for general aviation activities.

Director of Aviation Dan Dickten said the port authority has seen some demand for new general aviation area to complement the existing area that is reaching capacity. Dickten said interest has been expressed for new hangar space from existing tenants who are in need of expansion.