City mulls rental housing legislation

STEUBENVILLE – City Council members and administration officials met for 40 minutes Tuesday evening with representatives from the state auditor’s office but did not comment on the status of a performance audit now under way.

The audit is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The closed-door meeting was requested by the state auditor’s team that is examining the city’s water and wastewater funds.

Council members did offer some hints during the sunshine meeting indicating the auditors will be looking at the city’s water review board.

That panel meets monthly with delinquent water account customers to attempt to reach an agreement to settle the delinquent accounts.

After several minutes of discussion, council decided to meet with the water review board later this month to discuss comments allegedly made about 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna.

“Some disparaging remarks were made in a meeting that were inappropriate. I didn’t appreciate what was said. So I want to clear up what I did or didn’t do,” said Villamagna.

Legislation requiring landlords in the city to register their rental property and allow mandatory inspections under certain conditions was introduced Tuesday during the sunshine meeting.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman and chairwoman of the planning committee, Angela Suggs, also introduced an ordinance that will allow neighborhood residents to pursue the creation of conservation districts limiting future rental properties.

The two issues have been discussed by the city’s planning and zoning commission for three consecutive months.

Several local landlords, including Jerome Hagerty, president of the Jefferson County Landlords Association, have opposed some of the language in the two proposed ordinances.

Hagerty said last month a private meeting with city officials arranged by Councilman at large Kenny Davis, “was a good chance to air our concerns in a non-confrontational session.”

The planning commission was set to discuss the legislation Monday night but failed to have enough members attend for a quorum.

No landlords attended the planning commission meeting Monday night.

According to Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi, the proposed ordinance calls for twice yearly interior and exterior inspections of a rental unit if two or more notices and orders to comply have been issued to the owner pursuant to the property maintenance code within any two-year period and have not been complied within the time provided.

“The second reason would be if the owner has been convicted of a violation of the property maintenance code or if the owner has had a premise ordered demolished,” Petrossi has explained.

“I see this as a tool. I can only think of a handful of times since 2008 when we would have had to use language like this. I don’t see it being used daily. But it is there to be used if need be. The vast majority of landlords who came to past meetings are not the problem. Most landlords have addressed problems,” Petrossi said at the March planning commission meeting.

Third Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf proposed amending the city employee table of organization to include a seasonal pool manager and two assistant pool manager positions for this summer.

Metcalf also said the table of organization will be amended to accept a grant for the Municipal Court and a pay raise for the rehabilitation coordinator.

Resolutions honoring the Steubenville and Catholic Central high school wrestling teams were introduced Tuesday night.

(Gossett can be contacted at