The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

January 16, 2013

Long-time member not re-appointed to Conneaut’s port panel

CONNEAUT — After a quarter-century of service, Thomas Belnap will not be re-appointed to another term on the Conneaut Port Authority, City Council has decided.

At Monday night’s regular meeting, council — at the recommendation of City Manager Tim Eggleston — unanimously agreed to replace Belnap with Robert Best, a former port authority member.

Belnap took the news in stride on Tuesday, thanking his fellow members for their support and guidance and vowing to stay active in economic development. There are no hard feelings, he emphasized.

“Absolutely none,” he said. “I will continue to work with (Eggleston) and (Finance Director) John Williams.”

Belnap had served 22 1/2 years on the port authority in a variety of roles, including fiscal officer and vice-chairman. Last year he was appointed chairman of the group. Prior to joining the group, he served more than two years on a port authority advisory panel.

Eggleston said he presented the names of potential board candidates to council, the same practice he follows with other panels. In Conneaut, the city manager makes appointments to boards and committees but council has a say in the final selections.

Eggleston and council agree it’s wise to add new blood to committees, he said. “Boards need to change (periodically) and give others in the city a chance to bring something to the table,” he said.

Council President Thomas Udell said Eggleston’s philosophy is to rotate members after a couple terms and Monday’s action didn’t reflect on Belnap’s tenure.

“The city manager doesn’t believe in longevity on committees,” Udell said. “It has nothing to do with (Belnap). I’ve heard nothing derogatory.”

Belnap said he wanted another term for “continuity sake,” but also added he has been busy with his job and other projects. He praised the appointment of Best, dubbing him “an excellent asset” who has “a lot to offer.”

At the same meeting, council voted 6-0 to reappoint Luke Gallagher to the Port Authority. Ward 4 Councilman Thomas Kozesky abstained, saying later he sometimes  works for Gallagher, a local attorney.

Belnap said he is confident the experience he has accumulated with the Port Authority will continue to be put to good use for the city’s benefit. The insight of an ex-chairman is especially valuable, he said.

“Being a past chairman is a very good thing,” Belnap said. “I will be called upon (for help).”

Council inferred as much at the end of Monday’s meeting, when some members commented on Belnap for his service.

“It’s nothing he’s done wrong,” said Ward 3 Councilman Richard McBride. “He has done a good job. (The city) is just going in a different direction.”

Councilman-at-large Neil LaRusch agreed. “I hope he will remain involved (with economic development),” he said.

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