To the editor:
The financial plight facing Mingo Junction is profound and potentially insurmountable - which poses the threat of bankruptcy. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever foresee the current conditions now facing the village. When I was the mayor, we had full city status with our own health board, library board, a safety director, many functioning committees and a population more than 5,000. I do understand times were different then and realize that the closing of the steel mill - which was our sole employer of any magnitude - was unforeseeable and devastating to the community. However, except for minimal tax collections and the sale of water, Mingo now has no other significant source of income. Even with the increased water rates, the operation and debt on the water plant is unsustainable. The deal to forego their next payments has provided only temporary relief at the cost of adding another $1.5 million to their enormous mortgage. This was a bad deal that only kicked the can further down the road because sooner or later the debt must be paid.
It is now in the best interest of the community to do the necessary but painful thing, and that is to find an exit plan. Mingo Junction should cease trying to operate as a self-sustaining village and take a page from Brilliant and become part of Steubenville Township. Dissolve the police and fire departments, and be part of the county under the sheriff and volunteer fire departments. Village Council should be dissolved, too, since the lack of revenue makes its job insignificant since it has minimal money to work with anyway, and the money that is available is fixed on the basic necessities. Money saved from eliminating all the elected officials could keep street lights burning.
The water plant should be sold, since there is insufficient revenue to make payments and future sources of revenue are not on the horizon. Asking for additional revenues from existing residents is not possible. Many of the residents are retired, on a fixed income and pay no taxes - they must be spared any more cost increases. This is not to be taken as a reflection on the council's performance, but merely a suggestion toward a very necessary needed change regardless of who is in office.
Last, Mingo Junction has six council seats and a mayor - the yearly cost to the village for these elected positions exceeds $25,000 - and this does not include other elected positions. This money comes directly from the general fund and could be used for other, more vital basic services in the community. It would be great if council members could lend their experience and knowledge on a voluntary basis, since Mingo Junction needs all the financial help it can get at this time. I encourage you, as a resident of Mingo Junction, to take action and let your voice be heard in order to help your community.
Wishing all Mingo residents good luck and a Happy New Year.
John L. Lewis
(Editor's note: Lewis is the former mayor of Mingo Junction.)