Follansbee discusses police hiring, playground

FOLLANSBEE – The hiring of an officer for the city’s police department and replacement of the Mahan Playground equipment were among issues discussed by City Council Monday.

First Ward Councilman Vito “Skip” Cutrone said he will continue to push for a new officer for the police department because he believes it’s vital to the city’s safety.

“We need more than five full-time officers,” he said, noting there have been times when that number has been reduced because of vacations or illness.

Second Ward Councilman Dave Secrist noted the city wouldn’t be adding an officer, it would be filling a vacancy in the department left with the departure of Patrolman Tim Robertson earlier this year.

But City Manager John DeStefano noted the police department’s budget since has been cut by $100,000.

DeStefano and council cited a decline in revenue from the local steel industry while making cuts to the police force and other city departments in June.

City Police Chief John Schwertfeger said the situation has been aided by the part-time hiring of a handful of officers from other law enforcement agencies, including Robertson, who had left to become a Brooke County sheriff’s deputy. But he said the officers’ availability depends on their full-time schedules.

Schwertfeger, who also has asked to fill the vacancy, said DeStefano earlier proposed a lesser cut to the police department.

Council agreed to discuss the matter further at its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the City Building.

In other business:

DeStefano told council at Monday’s meeting he will present four bids submitted for new playground equipment at Mahan Playground.

In July council called for the old playground set to be removed, saying it had many splinters and hazards to children’s safety.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Iris Ferrell said the posts that remain still present a hazard and she hopes the new playground can be installed soon.

Third Ward Councilwoman Kathy Santoro said with council’s support, she will pay for a welcome sign for Follansbee Park to be posted near the Community House. A proposal for the sign calls for it to be in the same style as the welcome sign at the city’s north end and for it to note the park’s establishment in 1932 and the sign’s donation by Santoro and her husband, Santo.

Santoro said, “After serving on council for 19 years, I wanted to give something back to the community.”

Mayor David Velegol Jr. suggested council form a beautification committee to identify areas for cosmetic improvements and possibly hire someone to perform such tasks as cutting grass, painting curbs or planting flowers. He said volunteers also could be recruited to perform the tasks. In recent years members of the Brooke-Hancock-Ohio-Marshall Retired and Senior Volunteer Program have painted benches and planted flowers along city streets. Velegol said the committee could include the council members themselves or representatives chosen by them.

Secrist and Ferrell said they supported the idea but had concerns about cutting grass for residents.

They noted the city currently charges residents when a city employee is sent to cut their grass because it violates a city ordinance prohibiting tall grass.

Council heard from Eric Fithyan, owner of James Funeral Home, who said he is organizing a Remember 9/11 Memorial Patriot Walk for 5 p.m. on Sept. 11 to commemorate the tragedies of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Fithyan said the walk will be led by the Tri-State Young Marines from the funeral home on Main Street to the City Building and back north to Follansbee Park, where the city’s 9-11 memorial service will be held.

First Judicial Circuit Court Judge James Mazzone will be the key speaker for the service, which will be led by former Mayor Tony Paesano and involve the Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad and others.