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Council Resolutions Pertain to Settlement of the Westmoreland Barge Suit and More?
At the Thursday work session District 2 councilman, Pete Gillespie inquired about the property that follows the floodwall from 4th Street West to 7th Street West. Under the proposed resolution, the property will be turned over to the Huntington Municipal Development Authority (HMDA).
Gillespie wanted to know if anyone had shown interest. Mayor Steve Williams said, "yes."
At that moment Gillespie asked a question for which buzz has been growing: "I think this has to do with a barge terminal in Westmoreland."
The Mayor responded, "I don't discuss these things. I would be happy to discuss these things in an executive session ... this should not be a surprise to you."
Council chairman Mark Bates agreed. He received council approval for an executive session at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10 to discuss attorney/client privileged law suit settlement matters. Executive sessions bar public attendance. No votes or decision can be made during that session. Discussion likely will take place during the regular council meeting should the resolutions go forward. The resolutions are available for PDF download.
According to the Herald Dispatch, "Williams conceded after the work session that the transfer of the land is intertwined with the settlement of the lawsuit."
At the work session Gillespie had stated his opposition to a 19 acre barge terminal in District 2. “I think if this play out, my people are no different (in their objections) to those in Westmoreland,” Gillespie said.
The Herald Dispatch has confirmed that the city holds a permit from the Corps of Engineers for such a facility on the Ohio River. It would be between "a scrap yard and a metal recycling business" on the Ohio River.
The proposed barge facility has a history of strong opposition from Westmoreland residents dating back to 1994.
Previous administrations and councils repeatedly repelled the lease that would have enabled the construction of a barge mooring facility on the opposite side of the floodwall in the District One community. However, earlier legal and procedural maneuvers helped prevent the company from acting on its proposal. Huntington Marine delayed the permit process, as well. http://www.huntingtonnews.net/39015,
At a 2011 council meeting, then, at-large councilman Steve Williams analogized the barge parking lot as equal to parking 4,000 feet of 16-wheelers along Route 60. Acknowledging the pending authority and guidance by the Corps. of Engineers, he recognized the challenges of heavy industry and a residential neighborhood.
Although residents overwhelmingly opposed the barge facility, which would have likely impacted Camden Park and the Huntington Sanitary Board’s Waste Water Treatment Plant, the Corps. approved the plan. http://www.huntingtonnews.net/11618
The late councilman Jim Ritter led the city’s fight against the company. A copy of the 1994 council resolution can be downloaded below from a PDF attachment.
Prior to the 7:30 p.m. council meeting, the body meets in executive session to discuss the proposed settlement. At a 2011 meeting, city attorney Scott McClure explained courts have ruled against the city on zoning, on contractual terms, and rescission. A court ruling against the city for “interfering” with the lease had been put on hold pending Huntington Marine’s success on the permitting process.
McClure then said the judgment would trigger “sky is the limit” punitive damages should the case go to court. He recommended then and will tonight recommend settlement of the case. Liability insurance does not cover punitive damages, so a judgment would come from the general fund.
A copy of the resolution is also downloadable via PDF.