NEW CUMBERLAND -- The Hancock County commissioners want to buy Newell Memorial Field and the old Jimmy Carey Stadium in Weirton and market the sites for economic development purposes.
Commissioners voted 3-0 this morning to make an offer of $400,000 for both properties and to submit their proposal to the Hancock County school board immediately.
The board is meeting tonight at 6:30, but President Jerry Durante said it's unlikely there will be any action on the commissioners' offer today.
"It's going to take some time to digest that ... from a legal standpoint," Durante said.
Superintendent Suzan Smith is out of town on school district business and could not be reached for comment.
In their meeting this morning, commissioners discussed the purchase of the properties with Patrick Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corporation (BDC) of the Northern Panhandle. The BDC is the chief economic development authority for Hancock and Brooke counties.
Commissioner Mike Swartzmiller said the county has been interested in the properties for awhile but wanted to see what happened with the Chester Volunteer Fire Department's offer before moving forward.
The fire department has been attempting to purchase the Newell stadium property since July, but its offers, including two in tandem with the city of Chester, have been rejected as legally questionable by the school board.
"We sort of backed off a little bit when the private sector got involved," Swartzmiller said. "We believe that less government is better government."
Commissioners decided to "jump back in the mix," he said, after the board canceled a public auction scheduled for Nov. 30. Commissioners Swartzmiller and Dan Greathouse, and Ford, met with the board on Nov. 19 to discuss the stadium sale.
"We just heard them out," Durante said. "We didn't commit to anything."
Commissioners said the stadium properties are too valuable to pass up because land for economic development is scarce in Hancock County.
"We want the properties to be developed," Swartzmiller said. "We don't want them to sit idle, like Weirton Steel."
If the county's proposal is approved, commissioners would preserve the veterans' memorial portion of the Newell stadium, Swartzmiller said.