Council Unanimously Moves Forward on Authority to Negotiate Settlement of Judge Cummings Court Order

Updated 35 weeks ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Spectators enter council chamber after executive session
Spectators enter council chamber after executive session

Huntington City Council after nearly an hour in a private attorney-client privilege executive session voted to grant the administration to move forward with negotiations that settle  dispute with Huntington Marine Service that began in the 1990s.

After the council approved   a contract with W. Stanley James  on April 11, 1994 for a mooring facility, the residents of Westmoreland vehemently opposed the proposed facility’s location in a residential neighborhood. The late councilman Jim Ritter passionately helmed the opposition throughout the battle until his death last year. Joyce Clark , who vowed to continue the battle, sponsored the resolution.

Regrettably, in 2006 Judge John Cummings ruled that the city’s prior legal involvements amounted to interference and set for trial by jury a damage determination.  City Attorney Scott McClure warned “the sky is the limit” on damages, though a sympatric jury could award $1.00.

A portion of the administrative team, (L to R), Teresa Ball, Bre Shell, Brian Chamber, Steve Williams
A portion of the administrative team, (L to R), Teresa Ball, Bre Shell, Brian Chamber, Steve Williams

Norma Jean Ritter, Jim’s widow, told council, “he would be proud to get this settled” both himself and for his Westmoreland constituents. “He will be dancing with the angels if you move this through,” she said.

However, former councilman and activist Tom  McCallister read the handwriting on the wall. In 2008, council led by Jim Ritter unanimously opposed a barge facility in the West End to be operated by Campbell Transportation Company. Eventually , Campbell donated the 19.4 acres on the riverside to the city in 2013.

The 19.4 acres zoned industrial between W. 3rd St and W. 5th St. “will be the new resting place for the barges,” McCallister, a District 2 resident, said.  Referring to the prior “compassion” for Westmoreland residents, he sarcastically asked, “Where is the compassion for the West End?”

Council vice-chairman Scott Caserta opined , “These are two separate issues.”

McCallister countered, “Is that the trade,” demanding that  terms of the settlement be openly discussed. City Attorney Scott McClure would only state that Campbell held a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for that acreage. “You’re shifting the problem to the West End,” McCallister continued.

Jim Rumbaugh
Jim Rumbaugh

He speculated that Superior Marine, which cleared the Harris Riverfront Marina and towed the leaking former barge, would be the recipient of the land. Although Superior does have a vessel named “Stanley James,” the company was incorporated in 1979, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office. The incorporators were L. Dale Manns, Daryle Steinbrecher, and W. Stanley James.

Operating with locations in Proctorville, Burlington, and South Point, Superior Marine’s  Manns proposed a 120 acre development in 2005 to be located in Proctorville, Ohio near the Three Gables medical center. The multi-use project called for a planned community  with a marina, luxury condos, a hotel and convention center, retirement community, medical and professional offices, industrial development and shopping. A river taxi service was planned for the Ohio River. The location was located between Indian Creek and the 31st Street Bridge.

West End Neighborhood Association President James Rumbaugh told council “it sounds like a good plan. It’s adjacent to what’s zoned industrial. I see few negative side effects.”

Later, Mayor Steve Williams classified the matter as still in “negotiations,” indicating the unanimous vote gives him “authorization to proceed towards settlement,” he  told HNN that   Attorney Steve Nord will now “go finalize the details. We had to make sure we could legally do (a specific) something to be able to settle.”  Williams called it,  “ a very complex issue. In the long run, it benefits every citizen of this city and every city of this region.”

 Council Unanimously Moves Forward on Authority to Negotiate Settlement of Judge Cummings Court Order

As for the 19.4 acres, council heard  first reading on turning the area over to the Huntington Municipal Development Authority (HMDA) for  economic development.  The public will have an opportunity to support or oppose the transfer to HMDA at the next council meeting when the second reading  occurs.

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