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CURRENT STORIES


Bridgeport Council fully funds development agency

by Shannon Blosser

REGIONAL WRITER

BRIDGEPORT -- Bridgeport City Council members approved a nearly $5,000 increase in funding to the Harrison County Development Authority in an effort to get other cities, namely Clarksburg, to fund the agency at its requested amount.

During Thursday's regular Council meeting, Council members also approved a resolution supporting United Hospital Center's proposed move near Interstate 79.

But funding issues of the Harrison County Development Authority were the major focus of the meeting.

Council members and Harrison County Development Authority Executive Director Joe Gero spent nearly an hour discussing the city's funding level, other cities' contributions and the authority's accomplishments over the past three years.

"We need to be the leader," said City Recorder Mike Conley. "It's what is right and proper. ... I think we realize how important economic development is."

Council members previously agreed to contribute $15,000 to the agency, about $5,000 less than the $19,488 amount requested.

The amount was a result of a formula developed by the Harrison County Development Authority. The formula adds a city's percent of the county's population and contribution to the countywide general fund, which is then divided by two.

That number is multiplied by $140,000, which is the proposed 2004 fiscal year budget for the Harrison County Development Authority.

Gero and Development Authority President John Westfall, who also is a member of the Bridgeport City Council, said some communities in the county have not contributed their requested amount to the development authority.

According to Harrison County Development Authority information, Clarksburg was asked to contribute $37,296 to the development authority, but committed only $7,500. The Harrison County Commission's request was $63,434, but the commission committed only $30,000, according to the authority's data.

The data shows Clarksburg's funding level is about $2,500 less than the $10,000 it has previously contributed.

"There is a level of fairness that we have to look at," said Mayor L.J. Timms. "... I don't think everyone has paid their fair share. When are other communities going to do their fair share?"

Other municipalities have been asked to increase their funding. Following similar meetings with other city councils, Westfall said a number of municipalities are committing some type of funding to the development authority.

The increase in funding was critical to the development authority's future, Westfall said. If the development authority does not come up with the $140,000 through contributions and government matches, the agency may be unable to operate in the future, Westfall said.

Meetings have not been scheduled with the Clarksburg City Council or the Harrison County Commission to discuss the authority's funding. Westfall said those meetings will be scheduled.

Also during the meeting, council members approved a resolution that supports United Hospital Center's move along Interstate 79. The resolution says the city believes the new facility will improve the health care for residents in Harrison County and the North Central region.

Council Member Walter Barth, who along with Timms serves on a committee in support of the new facility, said the new facility will serve the region better.

"It's just something that we have to have," said Barth.

Regional writer Shannon Blosser can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at sblosser@exponent-telegram.com