Laid-off recreation aide speaks

STEUBENVILLE – A laid-off city recreation aide continues to press the case for returning to her job at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center when she addressed City Council members and administration and officials Tuesday night.

“There may be discrimination going on. I know what the union said about part-time people working but you have two part-time people in the health department. We are black and they are white. I have never seen that here before,” said Mattie Patterson, one of four part-time recreation aides laid off in December.

“There is no discrimination. The employees in the health department are not situated like the part-time employees in the recreation department. The health department is not covered by the AFSCME union. The health department is set up different,” responded Law Director S. Gary Repella.

City Manager Cathy Davison has said the current labor contract between the city and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union prohibits the city from keeping part-time workers if AFSCME members are laid off.

“We worked part-time with no benefits and no holiday pay. We went beyond our jobs. I liked my part-time job. We did the secretary’s job after she was cut. We did tutoring with the kids, we did janitorial work. We worked for minimum wage and we made money for the recreation center. No one was allowed back in the Wellness Center unless they paid. Now anyone can walk back there without paying,” Patterson said.

“You have four people up there making top money. One person up there is making more money than the four laid-off recreation aides made together. We had pride in what we did. We kept the place nice. You are not saving money there,” added Patterson.

There are two recreation department employees working at the recreation center who are set to return to their outdoor maintenance duties on March 1.

The additional two full-time employees include a city worker who is on light duty and an employee who was “bumped” by job cuts to the sanitation department and was assigned to the MLK Recreation Center.

Delores Wiggins, city resident, told the council members she was, “very concerned about the Martin Luther King Recreation Center. It really bothers me.”

“I don’t believe everyone sitting here is concerned about the building. Senior citizens have helped put equipment into the wellness center and now it is being torn up. You have talked about having volunteers there but if a volunteer doesn’t feel like going, they don’t go. I love my city. What happens here does matter to me. The recreation aides knew what they were doing,” Wiggins said.

“I am very, very afraid what will happen when the recreation center closes. Please do what you can to keep the center open,” added Wiggins.

In other business during the meeting, council approved emergency legislation authorizing advertising for bids for the 2013 Community Development Block Grant funded street resurfacing project.

According to Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi, “The streets recommended by City Engineer Michael Dolak include finishing the remainder of Oak Grove Avenue from Pittsburgh Street to the west terminus, Darlington Road from Oakland Way to the north terminus, Edgewood Place from Oakland Way to Maple Way, Oakland Way from Darlington Road to Edgewood Place, Superior Street from Edgewood Place to North Seventh Street and Maple Way from Darlington Road to Edgewood Place. We are also looking at resurfacing Highland Avenue from North Street to its north terminus and Dock Street from Highland Avenue to North Seventh Street.

“If funds are available the alternate streets to be considered are Logan Street from North Seventh Street to the railroad tracks and Ross Street from North Seventh Street to the railroad tracks,” added Petrossi.

The CDBG funds can only be used in the approved low- and moderate-income neighborhoods of the city.

Second Ward Councilman Rick Perkins said the CDBG street resurfacing project must be completed by July 15.

Council also approved an ordinance to advertise for bids for the park security and lighting project to be paid for with CDBG funds.

The city manager was authorized to purchase real estate at the city marina owned by the Ohio Department of Transportation for $1. The property acquisition is part of the $250,000 project to build a walkway and observation deck on the remaining pier of the demolished Fort Steuben Bridge.

In other business , council:

Approved a resolution proclaiming February as National African-American Month in the city.

Mayor Domenick Mucci said the resolution will be displayed at the Black History month display at the Historic Fort Steuben Visitors Center.

“I firmly believe that for us to understand our future we must understand our past,” stated Mucci.

Agreed to approve expenditures without a purchase order over $3,000.

Approved emergency legislation to approve and adopt current replacement pages to the codified ordinances.

Issued a commendation to former city resident Matthew Paprocki for winning the best of show award for two consecutive years at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Paprocki is the co-founder and creative director of Soundfreaq, the maker of a critically acclaimed line of wireless speakers.

Heard a second reading for an ordinance amending the city’s building code fees.

Heard a second reading for an ordinance authorizing the city manager to execute a Housing Revolving Loan Fund Administration Agreement with the Ohio Development Services Agency.