Budget hits council desks

STEUBENVILLE – City Manager Tim Boland proposed a 2014 permanent budget Tuesday night that includes the creation of a reserve or “rainy day” fund, the hiring of a manager for the utility collection office, staffing the City Hall reception desk, a financial contribution to the Jefferson County Port Authority and the possible purchase of a police dog.

Boland also called for City Council to consider enacting a permanent budget by the end of the year instead of approving a temporary budget and later a permanent budget.

Council members received a 3-inch thick budget document during the 90-minute finance committee meeting and will meet to review the budget again at 5 p.m. Tuesday before council’s Sunshine meeting.

Council also was asked to consider legislation for new nonunion city employees that will mirror holiday pay language already agreed to by the Fraternal Order of Police Ohio Labor Council and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 228.

Boland said the city is preparing to hire a new finance director, a parks and recreation director and a health department commissioner.

The city manager asked council to consider setting aside 10 percent of the general fund budget for a reserve fund, “for unforeseen emergencies or financial difficulties. This will eliminate the need for short-term borrowing. I also think we need to adopt a formal financial and purchasing policy.”

Boland asked council to consider transferring $50,000 from the city’s safety fund to pay for dilapidated structure demolitions.

That prompted 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna to ask for money for upgrades to the police department and the purchase of a police dog.

“We are looking at those issues as well as new police cruisers,” responded Boland.

Villamagna suggested the City Hall receptionist desk may be staffed by a utility collection office employee.

“If we hire a utility collection office manager maybe we can move one of the women to the front desk. There are five women in that office now. Maybe we can transfer one to the front desk,” said Villamagna.

Mayor Domenick Mucci called for financial support for the Jefferson County Port Authority stating the city collaborated with the Jefferson County commissioners to organize the new economic development agency and needed to make a contribution.

“We used to contribute $50,000 to Progress Alliance and that was reduced to $25,000 because of the city’s financial issues. We need to agree to the $5,000 contribution in this budget,” Mucci remarked.

Boland said the 2014 permanent budget has allotted $100,000, “for enhanced maintenance” of Lovers Lane from Sunset Boulevard to Fort Steuben Mall Drive.

“We will also be looking at some of our older computers. Some of them need to be replaced. And we need to stop relying on carryover funds from the prior year,” advised Boland.

He asked council to sunshine legislation Tuesday to authorize a $70,000 contract with the state auditor’s office to conduct a performance audit of the city’s water and wastewater operations.

“They will spend two months or so gathering information and doing field work. In month four they will draft an analysis, come to council in the eighth month and publicly release their report in the ninth month. My recommendation is that council consider this at the March 4 regular meeting and we move forward,” Boland said.

“The cost of the performance audit will be split with the water fund paying 45 percent, the wastewater fund paying 45 percent and the refuse fund paying 10 percent of the $70,000,” Boland added.

Second Ward Councilman Mike Johnson said he has reviewed other community performance audits posted on the state auditor’s website and noted, “the auditors identified a $24 return on the investment of every dollar spent. We should at least recoup our money. We should get the savings if we are willing to implement the recommendations.”

“If the auditors come back with a number of suggestions, we should implement all of those recommendations,” said 3rd Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf.

“I am still concerned about the unpaid water bills. We have a city law that says the real estate owner has final responsibility to pay the water bill. I want the water turned off until the water bill is paid in full. People should have 90 days to pay their delinquent bill or no water. The landlord has the final responsibility so let’s get the money,” stated 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto.

During the regular meeting, council approved a third and final reading for legislation for a mutual aid agreement for additional police protection between Cross Creek Township and City Police.

Council heard a second reading for the advertising for bids for the city’s 2014 hot mix resurfacing improvement project that will include portions of Braybarton Boulevard, Terri Avenue, Linda Way, Harvard Avenue, Parkdale Road, Princeton Road and Yale Place.

A second reading also was heard to approve replacement pages to the city’s codified ordinances.

Council heard a first reading for authorizing advertising for bids for the 2014 Community Development Block Grant funds for the paving of Woodlawn Road from Ridge Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue.

And a first reading was heard for advertisement for bids for the CDBG-funded demolition of dilapidated structures.

In other business Tuesday, council agreed to hold a joint meeting with the Jefferson County Port Authority to discuss economic development opportunities in the city and:

– Heard an annual report from Historic Fort Steuben Executive Director Judy Bratten, who said her goal in 2014 is to improve the city’s image as well as to continue to build tourism in the community.

– Scheduled a joint planning and safety committee meeting for 5:15 p.m. Thursday in the Pugliese Conference room with Police Chief Bill McCafferty and the Jefferson County Drug Task Force.

– Councilman at large Kenny Davis announced a “Save the Pool” meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. today in the Pugliese Conference Room.

– 4th Ward Councilwoman Angela Suggs issued an appeal for financial donations to the annual high school T-shirt campaign for graduates of Steubenville High School and Catholic Central High School.

– Boland reported he and Wastewater Department Superintendent Chuck Murphy are working to reach an agreement with the Apex Landfill to treat the facility’s leachate.

And, Villamagna questioned Boland and City Engineer Michael Dolak about how James White Construction Co. of Weirton was chosen to repair a broken water line under the Adams Street onramp and then repair the roadway.

“They are a good contractor, but I received phone calls from two other contractors who say the city seems to lean toward one contractor. I would like to see these jobs spread out among different approved contractors,” said Villamagna.

“Because of the type of emergency we had I asked the city department heads who did this job in the past and they said it was James White,” replied Boland.