By JESSE MANCINI
PARKERSBURG - Mayor Jimmy Colombo says he's not Jeno
Paulucci's whipping boy. Colombo and Paulucci, who owns
Luigino's Inc., which backed out of a deal to build a $36
million plant at the Parkersburg Business Park, the past two
weeks traded barbs in letters to each other.
Paulucci, who rose from a poor grocery barker during the
Depression to multimillionaire creator of Jeno's Pizza Rolls
and Chun King, criticized Colombo for telling a Duluth, Minn.,
newspaper he didn't know why the project was nixed.
''Jimmy, that's pure bull (expletive deleted) when you tell
(Jane) Brissett 'I don't know why Jeno decided to stop,'''
Paulucci said. ''Hell, I phoned you and told you plain and
simple. Jimmy, you're too young for Alzheimer's.''
The mayor next fired off a letter to Paulucci saying
everyone with Luigino's was aware of the construction plans
and timetables, and he wanted an apology.
Otherwise the mayor has no comment. He would not release
the letters; however, they had already been acquired by the
newspaper without filing a Freedom of Information demand.
Paulucci said the $4 million sewage treatment plant at the
site was never ''signed off by our people or installed, and it
would take six months to complete,'' the first public
disclosure of such a reason for the project's cancelation.
However, sources familiar with the project said the company
became concerned after The Columbus Dispatch in February
reported C8 contamination in some local water supplies. The
compound is not detected in water, but the company believed
its competitors would say Luigino's foods were made with
tainted water, the sources said.
Parkersburg and West Virginia were strung along four years
by the company, licking their chops at 600 jobs and $36
million in development.
Luigino's twice backed out of the deal to build in
Parkersburg and once in Hibbing, Minn., where it got into an
argument with the Iron Range development board, which sued to
take back a former chopsticks factory after the company failed
to do substantial work on the plant. Paulucci said the board
won the battle but lost the war, and it was a ''damn shame''
the plant was going to West Virginia.
The company announced in June 1999 it was building the
Parkersburg plant, but those plans fell through, according to
company President Ron Bubar in November at the second
announcement the plant was coming, the first time any public
confirmation was made the project was dead.
No work was done on the plant until after talks started
again after Gov. Bob Wise took office and the company and
state officials took part in the November announcement, this
time with Paulucci in attendance. Bubar said they needed the
Then state, local and company officers met in Charleston on
March 7 to talk about C8, a chemical used in a DuPont
production process. A decision not to build came thereafter.
Paulucci's letter never mentions C8 and attempts to put the
blame everywhere except on the company.
''In closing, let me say this, Mayor Jimmy Colombo, as
owner of Luigino's Inc., I gave my word, as did our president
of Luigino`s Inc., Ron Bubar, to the state of West Virginia
authorities that we would not discuss or publicize the reason
why we had to stop construction to avoid adverse publicity for
your city and area and through no fault of ours,'' Paulucci
'We have kept our word. This does not mean that when a
reporter asks you why, you tell them you don't know. Why don't
you tell them you don't want to tell them why and that Jeno
told you why,'' he said. ''The truth, Jimmy.''
Colombo is taking exception.
''The truth is that all people dealing with your company
worked above board at all times. Time lines on construction,
water, sewer, gas electric and roads were coordinated by
representatives to be finished by the state your construction
people set, which was December 2003,''Colombo said. ''I
believe the start of your production line was scheduled a
couple months after that. All commitments to you would and
could have been met as agreed.
''The truth is I have a right to say 'It's a terrible blow.
We worked very hard to make this thing happen.
''The truth is we did work hard and there is a void in our
hearts, but I know that hearts are not included to be part of
''You don't have to lecture me on the 'truth,' but the
truth is, if this is about honor and principle, I am not on
your payroll, nor am I your whipping boy.
''I deserve an apology from you,'' Colombo said.