City recreation center gets boost from county

STEUBENVILLE – City Manager Cathy Davison said she is optimistic the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center will stay open this year.

“But,” Davison said, “re-opening the Belleview pool will depend on community partners and stakeholders.”

Davison said a $25,000 recreation check from the Jefferson County commissioners presented to the city Tuesday night will assist the city in paying the utility bills at the recreation center.

The commissioners approved the $25,000 funding last week be taken out of the recreation funds generated by the county’s piggyback sales tax revenue.

The county every year donates about $160,000 to cities, townships and villages throughout the county for recreation programs. The city received $10,000 in 2012 and used the funds to erect a fence around one of the playgrounds at Belleview Park.

“We normally don’t approve the recreation funding requests until later in the year. This is the first check presentation of the year for us,” cited Commissioner Tom Gentile.

“We are still meeting with potential community partners to discuss how we can maintain operating hours at the center. At this point I am more confident we can keep the recreation center open this year,” said Davison.

The center is currently open Monday through Friday, and two of the recreation department employees working at the MLK Center are scheduled to return to outdoor maintenance duties in March.

Davison said she does not believe the city can bring back to work four part-time recreation aides who were laid off in December.

“We don’t have the finances at this point to bring those workers back. And we still have to work under the terms of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union,” added Davison.

Davison said she has had conversations with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Jefferson Behavioral Health System.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Angela Suggs said she was “thrilled” with the financial support from the county commissioners.

“It is important to keep recreation open and available in our city. I think this will start a theme of collaboration in our community this year,” said Suggs.

In other business during the meeting. a proposal to raise the city’s building permit fees officially was heard for the first time Tuesday night.

The ordinance, if approved after three separate readings, will mean building permit fees will be increased from the current 1965 rates.

An ordinance to reprogram $602,817 in unused Community Development Block Grant funds was approved by council.

Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi said $320,000 will be used for street improvements, $157,817 is set for clearance and demolition of dilapidated properties, and $125,000 will be used for code enforcement.

Council approved legislation authorizing Davison and Petrossi to apply for Clean Ohio funds for an asbestos abatement and demolition project at the former RG Steel plant in Steubenville.

An ordinance authorizing advertisements for a request for qualifications for a certified professional to oversee the asbestos removal project also was approved.

Council also approved legislation authorizing the city manager to advertise for bids for the John Scott Highway and Mall Drive improvement projects, as well as the University Boulevard and Brady Avenue improvement projects. The projects are scheduled to begin later this year and be completed next year

An ordinance to advertise for the Steubenville Marina deck project also was approved after council heard objections from William C. Watson, who said the funds should be used for recreation for city youth. The Ohio Department of Transportation agreed to save the pier closest to the Ohio side of the river when the Fort Steuben Bridge was demolished. City Engineer Mike Dolak said the state agreed to provide $250,000 in funding the project to trim the pier and construct a pedestrian bridge to an observation deck on the pier. Mayor Domenick Mucci said the money can only be used for the deck project.

A resolution recognizing Catholic Schools Week was approved unanimously during the meeting and presented to Catholic Central High School Principal Rich Wilinski.

Council approved a recommendation by Davison to hire the W.E. Stilson Consulting Group of Columbus to do design work for the Lovers Lane and Fort Steuben Drive intersection project set for a 2015 construction date.

The Stilson Group was one of two engineering firms to meet with council last week to present their credentials and ideas for improving the intersection.

Council heard from several city residents Tuesday night, including Bob Villamagna who cited dog feces at the Jim Wood Park.

“The city supplies plastic dog bags to clean up after the dogs but I don’t think very many people are using the bags,” noted Villamagna.

Council met in an hour-long executive session prior to the regular meeting to discuss personnel.

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