Elections, festival focus in Follansbee

FOLLANSBEE – An ordinance affecting the city’s primary elections and expenses for Follansbee Community Days were among matters before City Council Monday.

Council authorized City Attorney Michael Gaudio to draw up an ordinance allowing the city to eliminate primary elections when there are no more than two candidates in a race and both will advance to the general election.

The move was suggested by City Clerk Dave Kurcina, who said it would save the city $5,500 in costs for advertising the election, poll workers and other expenses.

Low voter turnout also was cited as a reason. Only 254 of about 2,100 registered voters turned out for the city’s April 2 primary election.

At Gaudio’s recommendation, voters in the June 11 general election were asked to complete a survey about primary elections and terms for city officials.

Of 331 people who answered the question about eliminating primary elections, 71 percent said they would support it when no more than two candidates are involved.

Response was more divided for the survey’s other question: whether city officials should serve four-year terms or remain with the current two-year terms.

Of 335 who responded, 54 percent preferred two-year terms, while 46 percent supported four years.

In other business, council moved to use $16,278 from its Urban Development Action Grant fund to pay outstanding bills for the Community Days festival with the understanding the volunteer committee behind the event will repay the city following upcoming fundraisers.

Mayor David Velegol Jr., who is on the committee, said to raise the money, a drawing will be held Oct. 19 and a fundraising drawing dinner is planned for later this year.

Velegol said the winner of the drawing will receive a $1,000 cash prize and Notre Dame University helmet signed by Lou Holtz. Velegol said chances are $100 each and can be purchased through him or committee member Don Layburn.

Second Ward Councilman Dave Secrist questioned why the festival was over budget and asked to see a budget for the event in the future.

Secrist said he supports the festival but is concerned about the city’s cost at a time when council has tabled replacing an officer in the police department because of budgetary concerns.

Velegol said the overrun was due partly to upgrades to the electrical system powering vendors that were somewhat costly this year but ultimately will save the city money in the future. But he said sponsorship from businesses and other private groups also dropped.

Velegol said the budget for this year’s festival was about $65,000, with council allotting $25,000. In previous years council provided $30,000 in city funds but less was sought because council has approved budget cuts, he said.

In many of the festival’s 20 years, the Community Days Committee was able to return a portion of the money allocated by council because of the generosity of private sponsors.

Council also:

Accepted a bid of $16,370 from Mike Pusateri Excavating of East Liverpool for the removal of the former Lantz Dairy on Allegheny Street and a bid of $7,800 for the removal of another dilapidated structure at 914 Walnut St. Fifth Ward Councilman Tom Ludewig, who chairs the committee, earlier advised if council doesn’t act to remove the dairy, it may eventually collapse into the creek below it. He noted plans call for gravel to be laid at the site of the Walnut Street house to create a turnaround for vehicles on the one-way street.

Authorized City Manager John DeStefano to seek bids for a new playground at Mahan Park.

DeStefano said while attending the recent West Virginia Municipal League Conference in Charleston, he met representatives of playground suppliers who told him of special sales planned for September. He said he will invite them to submit bids.

Council recently called for the playground structure at Mahan Park to be removed, citing concerns about its safety.

Discussed establishing an ordinance prohibiting vehicles from being parked on lawns. Velegol said the request comes after several residents of Highland Hills complained it hurts their property values. He added because of the wide streets in that neighborhood, there’s ample room to park.

City Attorney Michael Gaudio said it sometimes occurs when residents are holding parties with a large number of guests. But he agreed to investigate the matter further.