Vandalism leaves city leaders frustrated

STEUBENVILLE — ­City leaders vented their frustration Tuesday with the person or persons responsible for painting graffiti on properties throughout town, including their own Belleview Park restroom.

“It’s been going on about a year,” 4th Ward Councilman Scott Dressel said, pointing out whoever is responsible also has targeted private properties. “It’s the same graffiti, the same technique, the same colors, the same words. It may be positive graffiti, but it’s still graffiti and it’s illegal.”

A resident spotted the graffiti on the restroom wall last week and reported it to City Manager Jim Mavromatis, who said any destruction is a problem.

“I am upset,” he said. “This is the third year in a row we’ve spent money to fix the fencing, but vandals keep breaking through, kicking out the slats. It’s flat-out destruction. And now there’s the issue of (someone) destroying the look of the bathroom.”

Mayor Jerry Barilla said he’s hoping new lights installed next to the Belleview playgrounds will help them figure out who’s behind the problems, while Police Chief Bill McCafferty has asked council to consider funding a new surveillance system that could monitor high-risk areas.

“It’s discouraging that it’s a continuing problem,” Barilla added. “But with better lighting and cameras, hopefully, we can apprehend those responsible.”

Mavromatis said they’re trying to pinpoint when the vandalism happened in hopes it will make it easier for police to pinpoint the perpetrators.

First Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoretto called it “utterly discouraging,” adding it’s a shame to “spend money, trying to keep the park in shape,” only to have vandals destroy their work.

Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna said he, too, is frustrated, given all the money the city’s spent fixing the damage at Belleview Park only to have to redo it, ‘over-and-over again.'”

“Who would damage a children’s playground,” he added.

In other action, Utility Director Chuck Murphy told council the Ohio EPA is seriously considering his department’s strategy for addressing problems associated with the collapse of an old brick overflow line between the Jefferson County jail and the Ohio River. Ohio EPA wants to be sure the city is serious about dealing with the aging overflow sewer lines before it signs off on a low-interest 30-year loan.

City Finance Director Dave Lewis told council the loan interest rate would be “lower than we can get on the bond market.”

“I think it makes sense, it’s an improvement we have to make,” he added.

Murphy said the pricetag is expected to exceed $1 million, but the process will divert the flow into the Dock Street line to the interceptor and, eventually, the treatment plant. That will allow them to decommission the Dock Street and North Street overflow lines.

Council offered its assurances that, at least for now, its plan is to fix the problem areas.

Final readings also were heard of ordinances allowing the city to sell old water meters as well as excess property — a vehicle assigned to the planning and zoning department; and directing interest from the water, wastewater and sanitation funds to be directed back into those funds. All three measures take effect in January.

Council also met briefly in executive session, at the request of Villamagna, to discuss possible litigation and personnel matters related to the board of engineering and appeals and board of zoning and appeals. They emerged from the closed-door session about 15 minutes later and adjourned.