Police chief asks for OK to purchase high-tech tool for boat

Marietta Police Chief Brett McKitrick on Thursday asked city council’s finance committee to OK the purchase of a forward looking infrared unit (FLIR) that uses thermal imaging technology to help locate objects in the water from the department’s police boat.

“This unit allows us to see temperature changes at night between objects in the water,” McKitrick said, noting, for example, that a human body would produce a different thermal image than other materials floating in the water.

The FLIR Systems unit would cost $15,000 out of the department’s Law Enforcement Trust Fund.

The committee members agreed to support the purchase as well as the annual application for a Drug Use Prevention Grant that helps fund an officer and anti-drug education in area schools.

The grant award has typically amounted to $5,000, which pays about half the officer’s salary.

In other business the committee members agreed to contribute $2,500 to the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority.

SEOPA chairman Tom Webster, who requested support for the agency, said the city of Belpre has also provided $2,500 for the port authority. He noted the Washington County Commissioners reduced their contribution to the port authority this year.

“At the time we requested that funding the county budget was $600,000 in the red,” Webster said.

Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, said the county finances have improved since then, and Webster said the port authority would likely be returning to see if the commissioners could now provide some support.

The port authority has been working with organizations like Marietta Main Street and the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce to help increase economic development for the city, Webster said.

“It’s not our intention to control economic development in the city of Marietta,” he said. “But we are available to provide assistance and support.”

Webster said the port authority has assisted the First Colony Center development on Pike Street in obtaining tax increment financing to support construction of hotels and infrastructure in that area.

SEOPA was able to obtain through grant funds $200,000 of the $250,000 needed for a Phase 2 Audit of the former Remington Rand property on Greene Street to determine what amount of cleanup may be needed to develop the site into a residential /commercial complex.

The Greene Street property is owned by Two Rivers Development Ltd.

“That audit process will soon be under way,” Webster said.

City development director Andy Coleman added that the SEOPA has also provided assistance for the upcoming widening project of Mill Creek Road that will provide better access to Thermo Fisher Scientific and other facilities in that area off Colegate Drive.

Also on Thursday, Vukovic announced that the city had recently received $26,131 in estate tax monies from the state that could be used to fund about one-third of approximately $75,000 in improvements needed to repair the surface and install proper drainage at the Lookout Park tennis courts.

“We were looking for money to take care of those tennis courts, and have received this small windfall,” he said, noting that more money will be needed to fund the project.

The state of Ohio officially eliminated the estate tax last year, but some of the tax monies collected prior to 2013 are still trickling back in to the city, according to city auditor Sherri Hess.

In past years the estate tax generated annual windfalls of up to $500,000 for the city.