Butler County officials oppose Monroe creating its own port authority

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Butler County officials oppose Monroe creating its own port authority

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Monroe City Council is planning to create its own port authority as another tool in its economic development tool box. However, Butler County officials are opposing the effort saying it would create silos and would duplicate current efforts. ED RICHTER/STAFF

Three Butler County officials came to Monroe City Council Tuesday urging council members not to proceed forward on creating their own port authority.

County Administrator Charlie Young, County Development Director David Fehr, and County Port Authority Executive Director Mike McNamara, spoke in opposition of a city proposal to create its own port authority saying it was unnecessary and would hinder current cooperative and collaborative efforts.

City officials have been discussing the creation of a port authority in the past few months and enabling legislation is expected to be considered next month.

McNamara said the city port proposal was unnecessary because Monroe is already part of the Butler County Port Authority.

“… (T)his comes at taxpayer expense, and it comes at the expense of regional cooperation,” he said. “In an era when regional voice equates to strength in the marketplace, we are concerned about any movement toward ‘siloing’ and isolationism.”

McNamara said the Butler County Port Authority has also changed its policies regarding sales tax abatements without the issuance of bonds at Monroe’s urging and said that the port closed its first sales tax only deal in February 2017 in the city of Hamilton.

“This change was made at Monroe’s urging, and we have demonstrated our ability to work regionally to meet the needs of our communities,” McNamara said. “Any time Monroe or any other community makes a request or suggestion, we have demonstrated that we are quick to the table to listen to the request or suggestion.”

He cited several successful projects since 2014 and added there are several on the horizon that he could not discuss publicly.

Monroe has yet to develop a business deal through the Butler County port, said Jennifer Patterson, economic development assistant to City Manager Bill Brock.

“The Butler County Port Authority exists to look out for the best interest of the entire county, including Monroe,” McNamara said. “We urge Monroe to continue to be a regional force and player and not to isolate itself in a “silo.”

Young said the city and the county are in “the epicenter of something monumental” of the growing Cincinnati and Dayton metro areas and that the city is doing a good job. He also added that the Butler County port has close working relationships with various county departments to assist with economic development. Young also questioned the legality of Monroe moving forward as it’s already part of the Butler County port.

“We’d prefer they not move forward with this initiative to create its own port,” Young said. “We believe we are more powerful, stronger together.”

Fehr said he is the first contact for many businesses who are looking at Butler County and that he has a good relationship with the local economic development departments.

“We’re trying to make it easier for companies to come here,” Fehr said. “We don’t want to be in a deal shopping position.”

“I’m afraid it will hurt ourselves,” he said. “I’m fearful of Monroe, Warren County and Butler County would compete with each other.”

Brock said, “It’s another perspective for council to consider.”

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