West Jeff development questions asked


(Posted Sept. 24, 2015)

By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer

Madison County Commissioner Paul Gross took issue with statements made at the Sept. 7 West Jefferson council meeting and spoke out at council’s Sept. 21 meeting.

Gross’s concerns focused on councilman Steve Johnston’s request to have Sean Hughes address West Jefferson council about development. Hughes previously headed up the Madison County Community Improvement Corp. (CIC) and the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, but now is development director for the city of Delaware.

Gross asked why West Jefferson would seek assistance from someone in another county when development resources are available in Madison County.

“I assure you that West Jefferson is a constituent of Madison County,” Gross said. “To be successful in economic development, we have to collaborate.”

Gross also addressed Johnston’s concerns about the county’s planned water service upgrades to the I-70 and Route 42 area to attract business to the county.

“I assure you that Madison County is not in the water business; we are in the people business,” he said.

“We have three options: we can raise taxes and no one wants that; we can not invest in the future and the youth; or we can grow the base,” he said, adding that “Sean (Hughes) is a competitor now; why not use David Kell?”

Kell replaced Hughes as head of the CIC and Madison County Chamber of Commerce. Gross sang Kell’s praises, noting that a Columbus business newspaper named Kell in a list of “People to Know.” He also said that Kell’s efforts have resulted in growth in Chamber membership and increased workforce-related opportuni-ties for youths in the county.

“The assault on (Kell’s) character is unwarranted,” Gross said.

Johnston responded, “At no time did I assault Kell’s character. We were looking at ways the communities can work together.

“I said that we as council should work at annexing more land to use for development,” Johnston continued. “We’re not in competition with the county. It adds to our revenue and the schools’ revenue.”

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