Steubenville to put festival regulations in writing

DISCUSSING ISSUES — Second Ward Councilman Craig Petrella, left, and 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna discuss concerns prior to Tuesday’s council meeting. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — The city’s festival and street fair regulations will be put into writing to avoid future misunderstandings, members of City Council said Tuesday.

That decision came after 2nd Ward Councilman Craig Petrella reiterated concerns related to the Harmonium Project’s First Fridays on Fourth events, particularly complaints about group members putting road cones up and allowing vendors to set up hours in advance, restricting the traffic flow and making it difficult for customers as well as delivery trucks to access brick-and-mortar merchants.

“We need to put some rules and regulations in writing,” Petrella said.

City Manager Jim Mavromatis said several city officials, including Mayor Jerry Barilla and Police Chief Bill McCafferty, met with the Harmonium Project’s leaders to address many of those same concerns, saying they’d agreed the trailer and sound truck could be parked at 3 p.m. and vendors can start setting up at 4 p.m.

Mavromatis said that while the city owns the streets, shop owners control the sidewalk. He said a four-four-foot walkway for pedestrians must be maintained.

“All (it) was was pointing out things that will make it better, for them and for the city,” Mavromatis said after the council meeting. “That’s all. The Harmonium Project’s tried to do the right thing any time I’ve called them — they’ve responded and been cooperative.”

The Harmonium Project’s Therese Nelson said it’s been a learning process.

“We’re happy to take the criticism and learn,” she said, adding they’ve made mistakes because they aren’t familiar with the city’s rules and regulations.

Nelson, though, said they’d had 140-plus vendors at last week’s First Friday event, which she said was the largest in its 18-month history.

“We’re so big, we’re being noticed by Pittsburgh, we’re being noticed by Wheeling,” she said.

First Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto said he was glad to see the problems resolved.

“I haven’t seen so many people in downtown Steubenville since I was a kid in the 1940s,” he said, adding that “when you do big things and do new things,” there are bound to be growing pains.

“(But) let’s all work together for change,” DiLoreto said.

Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna said no one on council wants to do away with First Fridays.

“I think it’s a nice thing,” Villamagna added.

“I just want the rules followed. Council will be drafting a set of rules for everybody,” he continued.

Meanwhile, the open-air flea market, also sponsored by the Harmonium Project, will resume Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, but in a slightly different locale — a green space off North Fourth Street.

The property, owned by the city, at one time had housed Cool’s Hoagies, but it had to be torn down because of fire, officials explained

Last Saturday’s open-air market was canceled so organizers could figure out how to react to complaints that the event had impacted several brick-and-mortar stores by making it hard for customers to get to them and that food trucks were being parked in front of restaurants.

“The city acquired the property, we’ve maintained it, done some plantings,” Barilla said. “Vendors can line up in that space.”

The group’s also been granted access to a privately owned parking lot behind it.

Barilla said the lot should be big enough to accommodate the 20 to 22 vendors expected Saturday, but if it continues to grow they may have to look at an alternate site.