City now offering ‘Code Red’ sign-up

STEUBENVILLE — The city’s website now includes a section for cell-phone-only households to sign up to receive reverse 911 calls.

The issue arose during the January water crisis, when downtown was without water and faced boil orders. Landline phones receive calls from the 911 system in emergencies, but cell phones are not included in the Jefferson County 911 database.

To sign up, go to the city’s website, cityofsteubenville.us. Click on the “Stay Alert” sign and then on the “Code Red” logo. That will take users to the Code Red system sign-up.

City Manager Jim Mavromatis suggested that people who live out of town but have residents in the city they’re concerned about, such as elderly relatives, can sign up their cell phones and the addresses in the city they’re concerned about. They will receive the text notices and can then notify the residents they need to notify.

Mavromatis said the sign-up is voluntary, but it’s useful to notify residents of water breaks or boil orders or other matters that can impact them.

While the city has moved to repair notifications in times of emergency as a result of the water crisis, the financial needs of the water system loom large.

Finance Director David Lewis asked City Council Tuesday for an emergency transfer from the water reserve fund to the water distribution fund to cover the budget overrun caused by the water breaks.

Council will transfer $267,562.38 from the reserve fund next week. Lewis explained the budget included $231,000 for the entire year for repairs, but so far this year, $138,000 in bills have hit the fund and there’s only $69,000 left. He said the reserve fund is from a settlement the city received several years ago and will still have $640,000 in it after the transfer.

“This is kind of the rainy day fund, and it is raining,” he told council.

First Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto asked for a utilities committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 to discuss the water system’s financing.

“We need to write our congressmen, state senators and anyone who can help us. This can be a massive bill and customers cannot afford the entire project. We have a tough job ahead of us,” DiLoreto said.

Mavromatis agreed.

“At some point, there will have to be an increase with our utilities, but it won’t correct our problems in the city,” he said, indicating any increase simply would offset normal operating costs.

“It’s an old city, it has old infrastructure and this has just caught up with us. There are different areas to look into for loans, grants, bonds, maybe forgiveness loans. It’s all being looked at here for the best solution,” he said. “We had a severe valve break and it caused us to lose water to the downtown. Every city in the Ohio Valley is going through this, just not to the extreme that we did. We’re doing the best we can here and we will report to council and get it all out there and figure out what direction we go from here.”

Mavromatis announced water is off today through at least 3 p.m. for Iva Way from Whitehaven Boulevard to Braybarton Boulevard, Braybarton Circle, Terri Avenue and Linda Way with a boil order to follow the water coming back on, for a valve replacement. The water may be off longer if necessary. Mavromatis said a resident noticed brown water and the city discovered the broken valve at Iva Way and Braybarton.

In other matters:

¯ Council received liquor transfer notifications from the Ohio Department of Liquor Control for the two Rite Aid stores in the city as they transition to Walgreens ownership. Walgreens is taking over Rite Aid. The notifications will be reviewed by the police department, Mavromatis, council and Law Director Costa Mastros.

¯ Council approved Mayor Jerry Barilla’s appointment of Joe Lamantia to the unexpired term of Bill Ellis on the city recreation board.

¯ Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna recognized the work of rookie Patrolman John Levy for getting involved with youth at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center. Recreation Director Lori Fetherolf said after the meeting that Levy regularly checks up on children at the city and brings them snacks and interacts with them.

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