PDT Staff Writer
An ordinance calling for the vacating of an alley and part of Argonne Road and Spring Lane, as well as the re-location of Spring Lane, to make room for the expansion of the KDMC Ohio facility on Scioto Trail in Portsmouth brought a question from Fifth Ward City Councilman Gene Meadows at Monday’s Portsmouth City Council meeting.
“I do just want to point out that I know we’re just talking about a couple of alleys and some smaller streets, as compared to Third Street,” Meadows said. “But I just want to point out that there was one question asked last week, and it got a very vague answer when it came to King’s Daughters that I asked. I can’t help but compare the difference between how easy this seems to have started, as compared to the wringer that Shawnee State had to go through.”
Over a two-year period, City Council considered the closing of Third Street at the request of Shawnee State University to help with their expansion plan.
“When it comes to asking questions and getting answers, I don’t think it should be too much for King’s Daughters to be willing to give City Council answers when it comes to vacating these alleys and streets,” Meadows said. “It was a question about the number of jobs that we can anticipate coming as the result of this. I asked Shawnee State that, and they provided me an answer. They didn’t give me a specific,you know, 5,000 jobs, they gave me a range of how the expansion was. And that is simply one of the issues I was looking for two weeks ago at the Mayor’s Conference when we were discussing this. And the answer was very vague. In fact, if I remember correctly, it wasn’t something they wanted to discuss.”
Meadows said he was not asking KDMC to divulge any secrets they didn’t want the company’s competitors to find out, but that perhaps those small streets and alleys in that area are as important to the citizens of that area as Third Street was to the citizens living there.
Fourth Ward Councilmal Jim Kalb then suggested the representative from KDMC be allowed to answer questions at that point.
“I thought the question that was asked two weeks ago, was what we are building. And I made the statement that I really didn’t want to say what we were building because it was competitive,” Howard Harrison, Vice President of Facilities at KDMC said. “But now I understand the question was pertaining to jobs.”
Meadows pressed for a more specific answer.
“I also asked about the number of jobs and kinds of jobs we can expect to increase or be added to the city,” Meadows said. “And the answer I recall I got was, that hasn’t yet been determined. It looks to me that as long as King’s Daughters has been doing this, if you know what you’re going to build, you can anticipate the percentage of jobs you’re going to increase to what you’ve got there now.”
Harrison said when KDMC builds a facility, they build them so that they can add floors on top of them.
“The building that we have on Scioto Trail now that we just opened in the last few months, is designed to go seven stories tall,” Harrison said. “That now is two stories. And that is designed to have four more floors on that. And what we’re asking is to vacate the alleys and the streets next door to build buildings that will tie into that same facility. And it would be the same theory that we might add floors in the future.”
Harrison said he was not attempting to be vague in his answer about the number of possible jobs that would come as a result of the expansion.
“I just really can’t give you an answer as to how many jobs. I couldn’t make that kind of assumption. Maybe there’s 20-25 employees per floor or something, but I really don’t know that right at the moment, because right at the moment we’re just master planning, and we don’t even really know what the buildings are,” Harrison said. “We know what our long-term goal is - to add on to the facility, but I don’t want to mislead the Councilmen that we are bringing a hundred jobs to the community because I really don’t know that that’s the truth. We could open something new on this property and have 10 jobs, or it could be a hundred more jobs. So I honestly don’t know the answer to that. I’d like to say in four or five years we might add 300-400 more jobs out here. With health care reform, and the economy the way it is, I don’t know that that will happen.”
Harrison said he does promise KDMC plans to build more buildings and bring more people to their Portsmouth campus.
Portsmouth Solicitor John Haas then made a statement that became, according to members of City Council, the quote of the night that put everything into perspective.
“I would just point out also that where these streets and alleyways that are the subject of this ordinance are located, they (KDMC) own all of the property there,” Haas said. “So if it’s not vacated. If they can’t build on. If they can’t develop it, it will just make an end to that.”
“I think that’s the best response of the evening,” Council President Steve Sturgill said.
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.