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City Council debates festival regulations

DISCUSSION — Fifth Ward Councilman Willie Paul refers to a document during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, while Law Director Costa Mastros, center, and City Manager Jim Mavromatis look on. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — City Council began debating Tuesday what the ground rules should be for blocking off city streets for fairs and festivals.

“This is just a rough draft,” 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna said at the start of the discussion. “We don’t have to do anything tonight. I don’t think there are any plans (for a street fair) until spring.”

Villamagna, who chairs council’s planning committee, said the draft he put together is a condensed version of the guidelines Wheeling uses.

He said 3rd Ward Councilman Eric Timmons had “brought up a good point a couple of weeks ago when he pointed out we already have rules, they’re just not being enforced.”

“(This) brings it all together so everything necessary will be on four pages, instead of 11,” Villamagna said.

Fourth Ward Councilman Scott Dressel questioned how some of the requirements had been worded in the draft, including a clause requiring vendors to be permitted by the health department.

“We should probably say ‘every vendor who needs a permit should have (one),'” Dressel said. “We probably should be clear on that. I don’t think we want to start making laws for food service — once you make a law, then you are bound to enforce it.”

Second Ward Councilman Craig Petrella reiterated his chief concerns are public safety and protecting the city from any liability.

“I want to make sure the city is held harmless for these events,” Petrella insisted.

It was explained that there will be in a separate contract that Law Director Costa Mastros would draw up to cover that situation.

Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn pointed out entities suh as Urban Mission Ministries might not need to purchase special event insurance since they’re already covered under their base policy.

“I think what they have to do is add us as an ‘additional insured,'” Mastros said.

Villamagna said the proposal also should cover set-up dates and times, putting responsibility for securing necessary permits on vendors, and require organizers to submit a map of their event, pointing out that had been an issue at times in the past.

Dressel also questioned a proposal that would require the presence of a police officer whenever alcohol is being sold at a street fair or festival, and questioned whether residents who have alcohol at block parties would be affected.

“I don’t really think for a block party you’d need a permit,” Villamagna replied. “Block parties are BYOB.”

City Manager Jim Mavromatis pointed out the city doesn’t always have officers off duty who are available and willing to work the extra duty. In those

cases, off-duty Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies would have to be recruited to work.

“Whatever we do, it’s got to work for everybody,” Dressel pointed out.

Petrella agreed, saying it’s important that the special events don’t impact public safety.

“I don’t want to have part of the city unprotected,” Petrella said, adding event organizers should pay for the police protection, not the city.

Dressel also questioned why the proposal, as drafted, asks event organizers if they are a 501(c) organization. When Villamagna said there are currently no perks for identifying as a nonprofit, Dressel repeatedly asked why that question would even be asked, sparking a long and sometimes heated exchange with Villamagna about its significance.

“I put a lot of work into this,” an irritated Villamagna said. “This is just about getting all the elements together, having (Mastros) review it, tweak it, massage it and get it back to us for review.”

Council indicated more information on portable toilets and food labeling requirements also is needed before council finalizes the rules.

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