PDT Staff Writer
Scioto County Development Director Todd Book, on behalf of his office and the Scioto County Commissioners, addressed Portsmouth City Council Monday night and urged them to support the closing of Third Street from Gay Street to Waller Street to allow for expansion of Shawnee State University.
“Some of the economic impact that the university has had on our community, include, in particular, $93 million in total annual economic impact on our community,” Book said. “$15 million in the local economy from Shawnee State University spending, $41 million impact from student spending, and $31.2 million impact from faculty and staff.”
Book called attention to the employment of 877 people by the university.
“That definitely qualifies them as an economic driver of our community,” Book said. “Any time you have an economic driver, similar to a university in your community, you want to do what you can to help them grow. As they grow, those economic impacts will continue to grow as well, and they will be enhanced as we go forward.
“By doing the closure of Third Street, we are allowing the university to fulfill it’s mission of providing a very economical opportunity for the people in this community and others to have a quality education,” Book said. “It also allows, when the university grows, for more opportunities for spin off employment, not just at the university, but spin off employment in the food industry, housing, as well as retail.”
Another member of the community speaking out for the closing of Third Street was Michael Messerly, who said there are three things Council needs to do in considering passage of the ordinance to close the street.
“No. 1 - stay focused,” Messerly said. “No. 2 - don’t be fooled, and No. 3 - be fearful of the real risk each of you in the face regarding the issue of expanding Shawnee State University.”
Messerly, like Book, stressed the issue of economic development as a factor in the closing of Third Street. He said some people are quick to judge people who choose to make an investment in the Portsmouth community, and urged them to “stay focused.”
“Many of the critics of this plan for Shawnee State expansion are simply someone who is afraid that someone might actually make a buck in this town, and heaven forbid that that should happen,” Messerly said. “So here’s the thing about those people who choose to invest into this town - they’re the ones who are putting up all the risk with absolutely no guarantee on return. And so they certainly stand to gain as all of us do, with the expansion of Shawnee State.”
He told Council not to be fooled by the critics of the plan. Messerly said, while people talk about being concerned with what danger the change in traffic patterns will cause for children attending Portsmouth City Schools, he has not heard the same people talk about problems and hazards that already exist. He said those who complain should consider volunteering for such things as crossing-guard duty. He said there has been constant mentioning of the blood of children being on the hands of Council if some child would be killed because of the closing of Third Street.
“I would warn you to be fearful. Yes, you should be fearful of blood on your hands - I concede that,” Messerly said. “But I wouldn’t dare be so macabre as to put the children as the example of the blood you should be afraid of. No, instead I warn you to be fearful of having blood on your hands with regards to killing Shawnee State expansion. I warn you to be fearful of having blood on your hands when it comes to killing economic development. And finally, I warn you about having blood on your hands in regards to killing the future of Portsmouth as exists with such a wonderful resource as Shawnee State University.”
Council gave the ordinance a second reading, meaning they could pass the measure at the next City Council meeting.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.