WEIRTON - Mayor George Kondik is asking state officials to dissolve the Weirton Area Port Authority, citing concerns over lawsuits involving alleged non-payment of vendors.
Kondik wrote a letter to West Virginia Public Port Authority Executive Director James D. York dated Sept. 17 that requests the state authority board take action to dissolve the local port authority when it meets Wednesday. It cites concerns including "various lawsuits, reports of allegations of non-payment or delinquent payment to vendors ... and ... misrepresentations of the work being completed and the authority" of the local port authority.
Kondik on Friday confirmed he wrote the letter to York, but declined to comment further. His request comes months after City Council unanimously passed a resolution in May, asking the state authority to take a closer look into the operations of the local port.
The Weirton port is a three-pronged public-private partnership consisting of Tri-State Port Management, a for-profit corporation formed to leverage private investment; the Weirton Area Port Authority Inc., a non-profit eligible to receive public grant funding; and the Weirton Area Port Authority, a political subdivision of the state that answers to the West Virginia Public Port Authority, which is a division of the West Virginia Department of Transportation.
Weirton Area Port Authority Chairman B.J. DeFelice said Friday he believes Kondik's request is misplaced, because the allegations of non-payment involve the non-profit Weirton Area Port Authority Inc., not the volunteer Weirton Area Port Authority board, which he said was not involved in negotiations between the corporation and service providers.
He also believes it is premature because the disputes in question have yet to be resolved.
"In development projects, there are always disagreements in certain areas. ... Just because there's a dispute doesn't mean that the political subdivision has done anything incorrectly," DeFelice said.
Last year, Citynet of Bridgeport, W.Va., filed suit against Weirton Area Port Authority Inc. in Hancock County Circuit Court, alleging non-payment of more than $220,000 for work done on a fiber optic network. That lawsuit remains pending.
Kokosing Construction of Westerville, Ohio, also had placed a lien against the port authority for more than $500,000 for earthwork done at the port terminal at Half Moon Industrial Park.
Earlier this month, it filed suit against the owners of the property, which the port authority is leasing, though the Weirton Area Port Authority is not named in that lawsuit.
If any vendor was not paid, DeFelice said, it was due to poor performance or the vendor's failure to follow its contract with the port authority.
Though the non-profit is eligible to receive public grant funding, DeFelice said the port authority is now operating solely with private investments.
According to DeFelice, the Weirton port's objective is to boost area infrastructure to encourage job creation in the area. It supplies water and electricity for World Point Terminals' 680,000-barrel canopy unloading facility for petroleum products at Half Moon, and is working with other partners in the oil and gas, steel and agriculture industries, he said.