• 72°

LEDC renews hotly-debated contract with Superior

SOUTH POINT — A contested contract with a local river barge company at The Point industrial park has been renewed, but with some minor adjustments designed to leave the door open for other businesses to locate at the site.

The Lawrence Economic Development Corporation approved a new contract with Superior Marine Ways, Inc., during a board of trustees meeting Wednesday morning.

Superior has leased land at the industrial park and 3,300 feet of land along the riverfront since 2001. The company has a 20-year agreement that is reviewed every five years.

The new contract reduces the amount of land Superior has along the riverfront by about one-third. That land will now be turned back over to the LEDC.

“This is now available for LEDC use. We are ideally hoping to get a major development in here,” said Bill Dingus, LEDC executive director.

The agreement also reduces the amount of money Superior pays to LEDC for the lease from $90,000 to $60,000 yearly.

The property is considered a prime location for a river barge facility because of its proximity to the confluence of the Big Sandy and Ohio rivers. The area is also an authorized loading area with permits for loading up to 10 million gallons of minerals, ethanol, etc.

Dingus said Superior has been very cooperative in contract negotiations and has given up what he calls one of the most valuable pieces of property along the riverfront property.

The piece of property may not be vacant for long, though.

In December, McNational, Inc., the holding company of McGinnis, Inc., asked the LEDC to terminate its lease with Superior and allow it and its partner, the Columbus-Based Slane Co., to use part of the riverfront property leased by Superior. McNational and Slane have proposed building a $150 million ethanol plant — Buckeye Ethanol — and want to use part of the riverfront land to load and offload products shipped by river barge.

The LEDC is currently working with Buckeye Ethanol to hammer out a deal to bring the company to industrial park.

The lease of the riverfront land has been the subject of hot debate and even legal battles since the LEDC and Superior inked their agreement five years ago. McGinnis alleged the LEDC and its former executive director, Pat Clonch, had secretly negotiated the leases without properly considering other bids. McGinnis sued the LEDC and Clonch, but a settlement was reached in 2004 and the case was thrown out of court with the stipulation that the LEDC would reconsider the contract with Superior and give McGinnis an option to bid on the property.

Dingus said he hopes the latest agreement will appease everyone involved, as well as bring in more jobs and industry.

He said, “It’s not been an easy situation, but I commend Superior for their willingness to work with us and come to this agreement.”