City hears reasons for designation fee

STEUBENVILLE – Cliff Meyer will get another chance to convince City Council members to support a proposed designation fee designed to provide financial support for the JB Green Team.

Meyer, the executive director of the Jefferson and Belmont counties solid waste authority, and Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile talked at length Tuesday night about the need for a designation fee to help alleviate a projected $450,000 deficit.

“We can’t not do something. If we don’t take action the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will direct us as to what we will have to do to obtain revenue. We cannot submit a budget with a deficit,” Meyer told council members.

Meyer said the solid waste authority’s financial woes started late last year when the Apex Sanitary Landfill sold its rail assets and announced the landfill would stop accepting out-of-state municipal solid waste that reduced tipping fees paid to the JB Green Team.

“Our traditional funding came from Apex and 96 percent of the Apex funds came from out-of-state garbage.We have a big unknown here. The landfill is in a state of transition. We know the landfill is being marketed. I don’t want to speculate on the future of the landfill,” said Meyer.

“We can’t force out-of-state landfills to give us tipping fees. But we can set designation fees for garbage taken to the out-of-state landfills. It levels the playing field. Steubenville takes its solid waste to the Brooke County landfill. The $20,000-a-year designation fees will cost 17 cents a year for the average homeowner,” added Meyer.

According to Gentile, the city receives $100,000 in benefits from the solid waste authority.

“We want everyone to pay for the benefits they receive from the solid waste authority. The mayor of Martins Ferry is pretty sure his council will support the designation fees. This proposal is also a means for us to tie into the oil and gas industry waste stream. We will benefit across the board. We are here to ask for your help in keeping the JB Green Team alive,” said Gentile.

But Mayor Domenick Mucci urged council to be cautious in making a decision.

“I was reluctant to support this because the $2 a household a year doesn’t seem like a lot. But it adds up to a substantial amount for our sanitation fund. We are currently in contract talks with the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union that represents the city sanitation workers,” cited Mucci.

“This council will be faced with asking our citizens to pay more for their sanitation services. There is a lot to all of this. I don’t think this council is ready to dictate an increase in our sanitation fees,” noted Mucci.

Third Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf called for a council-as-a-whole committee meeting to discuss the proposed designation fee, “as quickly as we can.”

In other matters Tuesday night, City Manager Tim Boland said the city income tax collections in the first quarter “are trending in the right direction. I hope we will start to see some positive impact on our financial inbalance. I am hoping we see some positive reports soon.”

Finance Director Alyssa Kerker reported the city’s new water infrastructure improvement fund now has $37,098 collected to date.

Boland informed council members an emergency water break street opening repair project that originally was slated for a cost of $70,000 is now estimated to cost $85,000.

“We are looking at the option of not permanently repairing the water line openings on Buena Vista Boulevard because we will be opening the street again this summer for the Buena Vista Boulevard Extension water line improvement project,” said Boland.

Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna requested a meeting with the water review board before the next scheduled monthly meeting.

“There were some comments made that I would like to address,” said Villamagna.

And 2nd Ward Councilman Mike Johnson said he still is waiting for a copy of the Water Review Board’s policies and procedures.

During the regular meeting, council approved the third reading of an ordinance directing the city manager to advertise for professional engineering services for the Lovers Lane widening project.

Council also reconsidered a previously tabled resolution to accept the water improvement plan as well as:

A resolution urging Ohio voters to support State Issue 1, the renewal of the State Capital Improvement Program.

A resolution honoring the YWCA of Steubenville on its 100th anniversary.

A resolution proclaiming April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

A resolution proclaiming April as National Autism Awareness Month.

A first reading was heard for legislation to advertise for design-build services for renovations to the municipal court and police building.

Council also approved a settlement agreement with the DLZ Corp.

“I am very pleased with the settlement and will be even more pleased when we have collected the settlement.

The city is set to receive $2.5 million from DLZ and $540,000 from Cardinal Resources of Pittsburgh stemming from a lawsuit filed by the city against the two contractors for work at the city water pump station.

Council agreed to establish a reserve water fund for the settlement money.

Mucci reminded council members the Tuesday night sunshine meeting will be held at the Eastern Gateway Community College starting with a 6 p.m. committee meeting and followed by the mayor’s state of the city address at 6:30 p.m.

During the public forum city resident and former United Steelworkers Local 1190 official Joseph Smarrella explained the union and the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County are making arrangements to have the steelworker statue at the University Boulevard and state Route 7 intersection be moved to property across the street from the main library on South Fourth Street.

Council also heard from Mark Nelson who said he was propositioned twice Monday night after leaving a meeting downtown.

“I came to the police station to file a report and was told there are no anti-loitering laws on the books,” said Nelson.

And city resident Marlene Figurski asked about plans to install a sound system in council chambers.

“We can’t always hear you because some members mumble and sometimes you talk among yourselves,” Figurski said.