City manager search to be focus

STEUBENVILLE – City Council members will meet in executive session at 5 p.m. Monday to discuss several issues regarding the search for a new city manager.

Third Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf requested the council-as-a-whole private meeting, and 6th Ward Councilman David Lalich later said the meeting is needed, “to get some clarification on issues. We differ on a few things and need to discuss those issues.”

Lalich said two more applications for the city manager’s position were submitted late Friday afternoon bringing the total applications to 34 people expressing their interest in the job.

“The council members have all received copies of the applications and are now reviewing those documents,” Lalich said Tuesday night.

“We hope to start the telephone interview process by mid-August. We have until Sept. 14 to choose our next city manager. We will also have to finalize a citizens’ review committee who will participate in the search process,” said Metcalf.

“We will meet our Sept. 14 deadline if not sooner. We are all very serious about choosing the next city manager,” Metcalf noted.

Council met for 30 minutes in executive session prior to the Tuesday regular council meeting to discuss the city manager search.

Mayor Domenick Mucci is currently serving as acting city manager.

In other business, Lalich spoke passionately about a projected year-end deficit in the city’s water fund.

“By the end of the the year we are expecting to finish $55,000 in arrears in our water department. This has been an ongoing problem and we have to get this issue behind us. Once the new city manager is in place we need to address the water fund issues,” said Lalich.

“We are pumping more water than we are paid for. That has to end. We have tried to stop the water leaks. But I still don’t see any changes in the amount of water pumped and what we are actually paid for. We need to bring in experts to help us,” added Lalich.

He also encouraged his council colleagues “to explore all options.”

According to Mucci, “reviewing the 2014 budget is almost a daily task. We had some failures in the water department in the last week or so that will put more strain on our water fund.

“The council has already authorized a water study. We have changed to a new collection agency to deal with delinquent water accounts. The large water meters that weren’t working have been fixed. And effective Sept. 1, the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority will pay Section 8 water payments directly to the city instead of the tenant. Our finance office is working on a forecast for the water fund and we are trying to address the water fund issues,” responded Mucci.

He also said the University Boulevard John Scott Highway paving projects are expected to start in August.

“We have two paving companies in our area who submitted bids for the projects. Shelly and Sands Inc. of Rayland was awarded the bid but the rain we have had has delayed the work from starting. But I expect the University Boulevard project to be finished by the mid-November completion date because we will not be giving any extensions. I will start implementing penalties if the work goes beyond the deadline,” Mucci stated.

He announced the super pulsator building project for the water filtration plant has been awarded to the Grae-Con Corp., which submitted the low bid of $372,018.

Council approved Mucci’s recommendation to reappoint Ed Florak of Steubenville to the Jefferson County Port Authority.

Mucci asked council to schedule a finance or utility committee meeting as soon as possible so he can explain the results of his investigation into a $150,000 grant from the Governor’s Office of Appalachia and the Ohio Development Services Agency for improvements to aging water lines and the replacement of fire hydrants in three city neighborhoods and commercial areas.

During the hour-long session, council heard the first of three readings for legislation that will see the city purchase a new sludge belt filter press.

Wastewater Assistant Superintendent Chuck Murphy proposed the equipment purchase last week citing savings of $90,000 a year.

The new sludge press will cost the city $700,000 and will be funded through a 10-year loan.

Murphy said the city has been leasing a used press since 2011.

Also, council approved an emergency ordinance adopting a tax budget for the 2014 fiscal year.

“This is not our final operating budget for 2014. This is the tax budget we are required to submit to the county by the end of July. This tax budget does set a tone for how we will operate in 2014,” Mucci said.

Council heard the third reading of an ordinance to approve expenditures without a purchase order for more than $3,000, and the second reading of an ordinance accepting the city’s new comprehensive plan.

Council and the administration were chastised by city resident John Poole who said the city marina “looks like a dump.”

“It should be kept clean. There is no reason for the condition of the marina. You have community service workers available and they should be down there pulling weeds. I am even willing to help out a little bit,” Poole said.

He also called for the former Lincoln School bell to be returned to the Lincoln Avenue area.

“The bell is scheduled to be taken to James Brigham Young this week so he can refurbish it. It will then be taken to Beatty Park where it will be permanently installed,” replied Mucci.