STEUBENVILLE - Mayor and Acting City Manager Domenick Mucci announced Tuesday night city officials are now forecasting a $55,883 general fund surplus for 2013, and he said the $1.2 million deficit in 2014 is projected to be cut in half.
"Each and every single city employee should be thanked because they are now sharing more of the health care costs and saving the city money. The Health Care Containment Committee took a vote last month to increase the employee share of the health care costs. I have the blueprint for resolving our financial issues on my desk. We still have a long way to go but we are making progress.
Finance Director Alyssa Kerker said her department now is forecasting the city will face a $618,460 deficit in 2014 and a $1,164,340 deficit in 2015.
"But those numbers are very fluid at this point. The numbers are based on current budgeted revenues and assuming expenditures stay the same," said Kerker.
In other matters, Mucci, in his role as mayor, cast a rare tie-breaking vote Tuesday night clearing the way for the Buena Vista water line improvement project to proceed.
Council was split 3-3 on a motion to accept a state grant and pursue a five- or seven-year loan to meet the matching grant requirement. Sixth Ward Councilman David Lalich, who had originally opposed the measure, was absent Tuesday night because of medical reasons.
Citing financial concerns, council members had voted by a 5-2 margin last month to reject a $150,000 matching grant the Governor's Office of Appalachia and the Ohio Development Services Agency offered in October 2012.
But 5th Ward Councilman Willie Paul asked his colleagues to reconsider the issue and met with approximately 12 residents of the affected Buena Vista Boulevard Extension area on Monday evening to explain their tap-in fee responsibilities if the project proceeded.
"We should go forward with this project because it will enhance the property values and will decrease the number of water line breaks in that area. They have a 1 3/4-inch water line out there while the rest of the city has 6-inch water lines," lobbied Paul prior to the council vote.
According to Councilman at large Kenny Davis, "there is also the quality of life issue for our citizens. And there are the financial issues we are facing, but they aren't severe enough, so we should consider helping these residents. They pay the same water fees the rest of the city does but they don't receive the same service."
Third Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf reversed his earlier negative vote, "after I looked at the number of water breaks in that area during the past year."
"We know the residents are willing to have skin in the game because they will have to pay for their residential tap-in connections," said Metcalf before joining Paul and Davis in favor of accepting the grant and securing a loan to replace the water lines.
Resident Tammy Sweeney thanked council members for their vote and consideration.
"I am speechless at this point. I really appreciate their consideration. I am so pleased with tonight's vote, and I can't thank the council members enough for taking the time to listen to us," Sweeney said after the vote.
Mucci said planning for the project will proceed during the winter months and he expects construction to start in the late spring.
In other business Tuesday night, Paul also announced a test curbside recycling program will be outlined at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Jim Wood Park.
"The JB Green Team has purchased 400 95-gallon recycling containers for the one-year test program. They were looking for 400 residents but have learned there are only 300 residential households in the Buena Vista neighborhood. So the test program has been expanded to the Alexander Manor area as well as the Cunningham Lane, Westwood and Scenic Drive neighborhood. It will be on a first-come basis for the first 400 residents who sign up to participate," explained Paul.
Paul said the city will save on landfill tipping fees and the program will be environmentally friendly.
"After one year, the program will be evaluated and if it has been determined to be successful, we will expand curbside recycling to the entire city," said Paul.
"It is important to note all costs for the recycling container, the recycling truck and labor will be taken care of by the JB Green Team. We anticipate receiving the recycling bins in October and they will be distributed by our sanitation department because they know the collection routes. The actual recycling program will start Nov. 1. We are mirroring a similar test program in Martins Ferry," stated Mucci.
Council approved legislation Tuesday night to authorize the acting city manager to apply for state grants for the 2014 street paving project.
That paving list includes portions of Braybarton Boulevard, Terri Avenue, Linda Way, Harvard Avenue, Parkdale Road, Yale Place and Princeton Road.
Council also agreed to emergency legislation to enter into a contract with Direct Energy for the city's electrical power services.
Also, council unanimously passed an ordinance approving a new comprehensive plan for the city. The city currently uses a comprehensive plan written in 1964.
A third and final reading was heard by council authorizing the sale of city property no longer needed for municipal purposes. The city property auction has been scheduled for Oct. 12.
Council also heard the second reading of an overtime and compensation time leave policy for city exempt employees.
Health Commissioner Patty Reda announced the city health department will start offering a flu vaccine that offers the patient the ability to develop resistance to four flu viruses. It will be available to the public from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 30 at the Schiappa branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.
"After that we will offer the flu vaccines from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday at the city health department on South Third Street, as long as supplies last," Reda said.
And, Kerker reported the city's IT director has completed revamping the city's website.
"Starting next week, our website will have a new look and new features. I encourage residents to check out the website next week at www.cityofsteubenville.us," said Kerker.
Council scheduled an executive session for 6 p.m. Tuesday to review the post audit report.
In other business, Mucci announced the city has received a $20,000 matching grant check from the Pugliese Foundation for the Save the Belleview Pool campaign.