STEUBENVILLE - Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna continued his campaign to see a canine unit established in the City Police Department Tuesday night, declaring he was, "tired of excuses," and demanded to know when the police department would be prepared to put a drug sniffing dog in place.
"I think the city is missing the boat. We have the dog paid for. Training, medical care and food is paid for. And, I have taken care of the special vehicle needed for the dog. All we are responsible for is the wholesale cost of the vehicle and the training of the police officer who will be the dog handler," said Villamagna during the City Council safety committee meeting.
"I don't want to hear about manpower. We pay out overtime all the time. The drug dog is going to be a great benefit. It has taken us over 10 weeks to hire three police officers. This is getting to be nonsense. We are the only community along the river without a dog. I don't understand why we are not moving forward," Villamagna told his colleagues and administration officials.
"The police chief and I have talked about this often. The chief has reported where we are at on hiring the new police officers," said City Manager Tim Boland.
"That is not true. We gave the tests for the new police officers and we have waited weeks to give out the packets for the background checks. I heard the excuse the agility test could not be given. If the school can't do the agility tests then get someone else," Villamagna said.
According to Police Chief Bill McCafferty, "we do extensive background checks. It is always best to determine if there is a problem before we hire a new officer. Capt. (Ken) Anderson is now making the phone calls and conducting the background checks. But that can take time."
"I don't understand why we can't get this done. Pay the overtime. We have to get on the ball. This is important for the police department. Every time I bring something up I get 9 million excuses," Villamagna said.
"Whoever is selected for the dog handler's job, that person will probably be the same officer who trains the new officers. I have told City Council all along the dog probably would not be in place until the fall," noted McCafferty.
"We can't wait for the dog. There is no way. Too much is going on in this town. We move guys around all the time. You should see if there are people who can be moved around to make this happen," cited Villamagna.
"I have great faith in the chief. I understand the sense of urgency. The staff is working in a deliberate and focused way. The current hilltop cleanup is a good example of success if we stay focused," remarked Boland.
McCafferty said he will work toward an Oct. 1 deadline to have the canine unit in place.
In other business during the safety committee meeting, McCafferty reported the number of murders so far this year are down from 2013.
"Burglaries, robberies, thefts, shots fired calls and actual shots fired calls are all down so far this year. Thefts from autos and stolen vehicles have increased this year. The judges are giving out more jail time. And all local law enforcement agencies are working well together," McCafferty said.
"So we are improving. Most crimes are going down. We have a way to go but the crime statistics are going down instead of going up," observed 2nd Ward Councilman Mike Johnson.
The chief also announced a parking enforcement officer started working Monday and issued five parking tickets.
Council also heard from Code Enforcement Officer Shawn Scott who said there's been a crack down on high weeds, grass and litter as well as the building code violations.
Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi said four new firefighters to be hired with a S.A.F.E.R. grant should be on the job by the end of July.
Council also met for an hour with the Charter Review Commission to discuss the 13-issue proposed amendments to the current charter.
"It is hard for me to believe we would set term limits in the amendments when the average age in this city is 50. I am opposed to the term limits issue and I will speak to this and talk to people before the vote in November," stated Councilman at large Kenny Davis.
"We met every week except for maybe two weeks from November until May. Most of the things in our proposed amendments were suggestions we heard from residents. We didn't take these ideas off the top of our heads. We all heard about term limits from people we spoke to. The majority of these issues came from public input," responded Commission Chairman John J. Mascio.
"The citizens will vote on this in November. The citizens will decide if they want these changes," replied 5th Ward Councilman Willie Paul.
During the council sunshine meeting, Paul introduced emergency legislation to forward the proposed amendments to the Jefferson County Board of Elections to be placed on the November ballot.
Paul also proposed an ordinance to allow the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority to implement a residential on street parking parking policy for the Earl Rodgers Plaza on South Fifth and South Sixth streets.
Other proposed legislation from 3rd Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf included authorization for the city manager to execute a task order for work at the wastewater plant; and,
Authorization for the finance director to transfer $331,000 from the reserve water fund to the water infrastructure fund for the Harvard Avenue and Buena Vista Boulevard water projects set to start this year.
Changing the table of organization to add four firefighters.
Approval of a new three-year contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2015.
During the public forum, council and the administration were asked by city resident Daniel Thorne if the property maintenance code is applied to all citizens.
"I can assure you sir the code is equal for all city residents," said Boland.