Belmont County Commissioners argued heatedly for two hours about whether to follow through with their earlier commitment to give $1.9 million to the I-70 Mall Road Interchange project.
In the end, they went into executive session, and when they came out, they announced simply that they were not going to discuss it any further.
It all started when Commissioner Matt Coffland told his colleagues the time is now to fund this project.
He said ODOT is on board, other funding sources are secured, and all they need is for the county commission to follow through on their commitment.
"This came to a vote to put $1.9 million toward this project and we did, in a line item marked Mall Road," said Coffland.
Commissioners Chuck Probst and Ginny Favede insisted that they are in favor of the project itself, but were not convinced that the county needed to contribute to it after all.
They said their attorney spoke with an ODOT official who told him the project would go forward anyway, even without their contribution, with only about two months delay.
"That ODOT would go back to what was its original plan, to cover the entire section of the road, all the way up to (Route) 40," related Aaron Glasgow, attorney for the commissioners.
But Coffland said he was told just the opposite.
So he called Lloyd MacAdam, deputy director of ODOT, put him on speaker phone, and asked what would happen without the county's $1.9 million.
"We would put it on hold at this point," MacAdam answered.
He indicated it would push it back perhaps two years, and they would have to cast about for alternate funding.
Further complicating matters was a long-time property dispute over several feet of land that would be taken to create an access road--property owned by Bob Stewart of Stewart's RV Center.
His attorney said another party--former developer Rob Stein--had promised to pay for the road project and should be held to his word, instead of using public funds.
St. Clairsville Public Service Director Dennis Bigler told them, by insisting on focusing on obscure decades-old details, they are letting an excellent, advantageous project slip through their fingers.
"Do you want to make it more complicated now?" Bigler asked. "Or do you want to have a little faith that this is going to happen based on what ODOT told us for 10 years, based on the work that we have done for a decade on this project."
At one point, Commissioner Ginny Favede said they simply don't have the $1.9 million anymore, that they used $1 million of it for paving last year.
In the end, they went into executive session, saying they had to discuss the legal aspects with their attorney.
And when they came out, Favede said no vote would be taken and the discussion was over.
No explanation was made.