Follansbee council discusses traffic, taxes

FOLLANSBEE – City Council on Monday discussed truck traffic at the city’s north end and delinquent taxes from some doing business in the city.

City Manager John DeStefano was asked about traffic conditions at a two-lane section of state Route 2 south of Mountain State Carbon that has been reduced to one lane.

DeStefano explained the highway has been temporarily reduced to one lane to ease the flow of trucks leaving Mountain State Carbon through its north entrance to reach the Koppers plant.

He said the trucks are traveling through the plant until Koppers is able to repair a bridge leading to its facility.

Trucks going to Koppers normally use Veterans Drive.

DeStefano said Koppers has paid for the barrels that block Route 2’s left southbound lane in that area and flaggers positioned to direct traffic through it at times.

A few council members expressed concerns about drivers from Archer Hill Road having difficulty turning into the single southbound lane during periods of heavy traffic.

DeStefano said a message urging residents to use caution there and stressing it’s a temporary situation have been sent through the city’s automated phone system.

In other business, 4th Ward Councilwoman Iris Ferrell reiterated her frustration that some businesses have failed to pay their business and occupation taxes. She said delinquent taxpayers should be given the chance to pay in installments, if needed, but blatant refusal to pay is unfair to those who do pay.

Fifth Ward Councilman Tom Ludewig moved that council hire an independent auditor to investigate.

City Attorney Michael Gaudio suggested the auditor could rely only on records of taxes paid by businesses, contractors and landlords and might only be able to identify delinquent taxpayers through their association with those who paid.

Last week he suggested council may seek delinquent taxes through legal action but must weigh the cost for that with the amount of tax it hopes to recover.

Ludewig’s motion was supported by Ferrell and 1st Ward Councilman Vito “Skip” Cutrone but opposed by 2nd Ward Councilman Dave Secrist, 3rd Ward Councilwoman Kathy Santoro, Councilman at large Dominick Micucci and Mayor David Velegol Jr.

Micucci encouraged DeStefano to pursue all delinquent B&O taxes.

The city manager said in recent months he’s sent a series of letters to businesses and visited some. He said of about a dozen identified as delinquent, nearly all have made arrangements to pay.

– Council unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance raising the city’s garbage rates by $4 for residents and $10 for businesses. The increase for residents will occur in two $2 increments over the next two years, while the increase for businesses will be in two $5 increments.

The ordinance must undergo a third reading before it’s adopted.

Council members cited a $130,000 loss as the reason for the increases. They are expected to offset that loss by generating about $70,000.