Port board to operate with 4 members

LISBON — The Columbiana County Port Authority is fine operating with only four board positions and county commissioners are, too.

Port board chairman Charlie Presley sent a letter telling commissioners they were content if commissioners chose not to fill the fifth board position, which has been vacant since the August resignation of Brian Kennedy.

“We are operating within this parameter, are confident that our duties can be managed with the current number of board members and respectfully request that the … board of directors remain at its current number” of four, he wrote.

The letter was dated Sept. 25, the same day the board voted to officially limit its size to no more than five members and no less than three as part of an update of its rules and regulations. During the review the port authority found there was nothing on the books officially establishing the size of the board.

“We looked at the fact we had no parameters about the size of the board and we didn’t realize that,” Presley said, when contacted for this story.

While state law allows port authorities to determine board size, the appointments are up to county commissioners. The board originally had nine members but it was reduced to five on the recommendation of commissioners, who felt nine was unnecessarily large, especially given that members are paid and eligible to receive health insurance coverage.

As for the letter saying the board was satisfied with keeping the complement at four, Presley said they reached that decision while deciding to amend the rules and regulations to limit the size. “We’ve got four good board members. We hated to lose Mr. Kennedy … but we just decided it to keep it at four,” he said.

Having an odd-numbered size board could result in a 2-2 vote, although the newspaper could not recall any time in the past 30 years when there was anything less than a unanimous vote. Presley said they talked about the possibility of a 2-2 vote, and if two members were opposed to a resolution “maybe we shouldn’t be doing something in the first place.”

If they were to reach a deadlock, Presley said it would force them to take a second look at the proposal and reconsider their positions, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

“I’m not worried about that … This is not only a strong board but a strong administration. They really know what they are doing,” he said. “This is the most efficient operation of the port authority since I’ve been on the board.”

Commission chairman Jim Hoppel said they had decided not to fill the position immediately anyway. “We’re not in a hurry, and we’ll just see how things work out,” he said.

Commissioner Mike Halleck agreed. “As one commissioner I’m comfortable with the way things are,” he said, adding eliminating a board position will also save the port authority money.

Presley said keeping the board at three or four members would also seem to satisfy state law because regardless they are still required to have three members present to constitute a quorum and conduct business.