Villamagna angry about parking

STEUBENVILLE – A flash of anger, an offer of volunteer workers and a request from a community church to put prayer back in schools came Tuesday night during a nearly three-hour City Council meeting.

“I’m getting sick and tired of hearing what we can’t do. To not enforce the two-hour parking limit in the downtown business district is ludicrous. It can be done. You just go out and do it or take the laws off the book. These downtown business owners deserve someone enforcing the parking laws or they will go to Wintersville. I am sick and tired of hearing we can’t do it. Find a way to do stuff because we can’t sit back and say we can’t do the important stuff,” 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna said during a discussion regarding having a police officer walk through the downtown central business district to enforce parking laws and provide a law enforcement presence.

“It is very important to get the parking laws enforced. Whatever we do we have to find a way to enforce the parking laws,” continued Villamagna.

Minutes earlier Police Chief Bill McCafferty told council members he doesn’t have enough officers to walk the downtown.

Council members spent 90 minutes discussing issues raised during a Steubenville Revitalization Group meeting earlier this month, including illegal parking, painting the street curbs and lane lines, installing directional signs and snow removal in the business district.

Second Ward Councilman Mike Johnson said the downtown business owners deserve the same snow and ice removal that was used on South Third Street in front of the City Building this winter.

“If we are trying to encourage businesses to come down here we should clear the streets of ice and snow,” said Johnson.

And, 5th Ward Councilman Willie Paul suggested taking snow and ice from downtown streets “and dumping it in a vacant city owned lot.

Paul also volunteered and urged his council colleagues to volunteer to power wash old yellow paint from the downtown street curbs before a contractor is hired to re-paint the curbs to indicate where parking is prohibited.

“I want to do anything I can to help save money and to get this done,” noted Paul.

“I want to see something done soon. We can also use community service workers for this project,” remarked 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto.

City Engineer Michael Dolak offered two painting options for council to consider, including $38,915 for painting the curbs, center lines and lane lines in the business district of Third, Fourth and Fifth streets as well as Market Street.

“The other option is a citywide painting project that would include lane painting in the downtown as well as Sunset Boulevard for approximately $41,500. I just need some guidance on which project to go with,” said Dolak.

The SRG had requested city assistance in maintaining hanging flower baskets, but Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi urged the business owners to consider forming a “special improvement district” where the property owners can tax themselves for funds to provide and maintain the flower baskets as well as other projects.

Petrossi recommended city officials create more two-hour parking closer to the business district by switching the permit parking lot on South Fourth Street with a two-hour parking lot on Adams Street.

“That will require putting a new pay box at the South Fourth Street parking lot. We are also looking at demolishing the building adjacent to the police department parking lot and talking to the Old Fort Steuben Project that owns a small parking lot of South Third Street to create a larger parking space. And we are considering closing Market Street between Third Street and Court Alley to develop a plaza area in 2017 between the City Hall and the courthouse,” explained Petrossi.

Petrossi also recommended hiring a part-time parking enforcement officer in 2015 and installing directional signs for downtown parking lots.

Johnson told City Manager Tim Boland he could find immediate ways to pay for a part-time parking enforcement officer by “cutting health care for council members and part-time employees and nonunion city employees with salaries inflated by union benefits.”

“When someone retires we should review if that position should be evaluated,” added Johnson.

Following the 90-minute discussion Jerry Barilla, owner of Frank & Jerry’s Appliance Store on North Fourth Street, thanked council members and administration for discussing downtown business issues.

“This is the first time in my life the council has addressed the issues this seriously. Parking in the business district is vital. We are not asking much. An occasional walk through by a police officer or a drive through for a police presence is enough. Parking is the key to survival. We all have Steubenville in our hearts. We all love Steubenville,” Barilla said.

Council heard from Myron Reese of the Word of Life Fellowship on Lovers Lane who asked for help from the city in returning prayer to the schools.

“We need prayer back in the schools. And we are asking for help in changing things in the city,” stated Reese, who was joined by several members of the church.

Law Director S. Gary Repella suggested Reese address the Steubenville board of education at the next board meeting.

In other business, council tabled a resolution for adopting the water system improvement plan after Paul said he was unaware of the recommendation to consider an inflationary increase in water rates in future years.

The issue will be discussed at an April 15 utility committee meeting.

Councilman at large Kenny Davis announced the search for a new recreation director is nearing a conclusion.

And, 3rd Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf called for a water service line leak on Central Court Street to be stopped immediately.

“The water has been leaking into the street for eight days now and this must be stopped. It is wasting city water,” said Metcalf.

Council approved an ordinance to transfer $50,000 from the safety fund to the general fund for the demolition of dilapidated houses as well as;

A $70,000 contract with Fort Steuben Maintenance for the repair of 42 street openings created by broken water line repair projects.

A resolution designating April as Fair Housing Month in the city and a resolution proclaiming April as National Minority Health Month.

Third readings were heard for legislation authorizing the purchase of a Case excavator and hydraulic hammer, as well as authorization to advertise for bids for the Buena Vista Boulevard water line upgrade project.