STEUBENVILLE - City Engineer Michael Dolak sat down today with officials from the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission to discuss the next step in the long discussed Lovers Lane widening project.
The proposed project won't become a reality soon but City Council agreed Tuesday night to consider legislation authorizing the hiring of a professional engineer for design work on the roadway that may include a roundabout circle at the intersection with Fort Steuben Drive, wider driving lanes and possible mailbox drop-off sites.
"The meeting (today) is to determine how to fund the professional engineering services and how to proceed on this project. It seems like a lot, and it is a lot. This will be a long process. The last estimate does not have the entire project set for completion until 2016," Dolak told City Council members Tuesday night.
City engineer offers project details
"Quite a lot of traffic uses that roadway. Our conceptual design at this point will see Lovers Lane widened from the current 9-and-one-half-foot lanes to 12-foot lanes. We are also looking at expanding the Lovers Lane and Sunset Boulevard intersection," said Dolak.
"The roundabout, if we choose that option, could be 100 percent federally funded.
"A roundabout slows traffic down and relieves congestion. That would be the first phase of this project. The second phase would be widening the existing lanes and the Lovers Lane and Sunset Boulevard intersection. The ordinance I am asking for tonight will allow us to get the process started," said Dolak.
"This is long overdue. The project has been talked about for the past 22 years and we are now taking steps to see it become a reality. I am excited about this project. The sooner it is completed the better we will be," remarked 6th Ward Councilman David Lalich.
Council also heard from Code Enforcement Officer Shawn Scott who asked council to modify current city laws to combat high weeds and grass.
"We want people to cut grass. I believe the current ordinance has the teeth but I need to be allowed to focus on administrative duties and citations.
"I have talked to Municipal Court Judge Dan Spahn who is willing to work with the city to make our weed and grass program work effectively. Last year we had 200 work orders for overgrown lots for the entire summer. We are now at 130 work orders so far this year and the numbers are increasing," Scott advised council members.
According to City Manager Cathy Davison, "the judge can impose a jail sentence, a fine and order restitution.
"We want to be able to put teeth into our local law."
"We need to get something done about this. There are properties with high weeds and grass in every ward. I would like us to keep the court-appointed supervisors in place to manage the grass cutting crews for the remainder of the summer. That will cost us about $11,000," said 3rd Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf.
Law Director S. Gary Repella said he will review legal language and prepare legislation that will allow city officials to issue a one-time annual notice against property owners who don't cut the grass or weeds on their lots.
But council delayed introducing legislation to authorize the Steel Valley Regional Transit Authority to officially expand into Wintersville.
Several council members and Mayor Domenick Mucci expressed concerns about the transit authority's proposed board of directors.
SVRTA General Manager Frank Bovina said the new board will include four representatives from Steubenville and two each from Mingo Junction and Wintersville.
"That could mean tie votes in the future," argued Mucci.
"The majority of riders and funding comes from Steubenville. This is the right step toward regionalization, which I fully support. But at the same time we have to protect the interests of our citizens," Mucci added.
Mingo Junction Council heard the first reading of the legislation Tuesday night, but Steubenville Council members delayed action on the ordinance to include Wintersville in the transit authority until Davison talks to village leaders in Mingo Junction and Wintersville.
In other business, legislation was introduced by 4th Ward Councilwoman Angela Suggs for the rezoning of the Rose property on Lovers Lane.
The owners of the Rose and Clara's Catering asked the city's planning and zoning commission last week to approve rezoning the Lovers Lane property to allow a screening and graphics company to set up shop in the building.
Suggs also introduced an ordinance authorizing the reprogramming of Community Development Block Grant unexpended funds to be used for the paving of South Sixth Street.
And Suggs proposed an ordinance authorizing cooperation with the Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission for the Moving Ohio Forward Grant program.
An ordinance authorizing an agreement with Toronto for commercial building inspection services to be supplied by the Steubenville building department also was introduced by Suggs.
And Lalich proposed an ordinance to formalize a contractual agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1 that will restore the holiday pay and furlough days the police union agreed to give up last year.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)