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CARES Act funds eyed for city of Steubenville purchases

LOOKING IT OVER — City Manager Jim Mavromatis looks over his weekly report to council Tuesday. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — Fifth Ward Councilman Willie Paul has proposed using federal CARES Act funds to pay for the two ambulances the city is purchasing for the fire department.

City Council had voted two weeks ago to spend up to $343,519 to buy two 2021 Frontline ambulances on a Ford E350 chassis plus equipment, the same meeting they passed a resolution expressing their interest in receiving CARES funds.

At the time, Paul had assured the others that, if grant funding were available, they’d jump on it.

Paul said Tuesday it only makes sense to tap into the city’s $742,000 CARES Act funds.

“One of the ideas that we had was to possibly pay for the ambulances with CARES Act funding. We have reviewed the guidelines and also called our auditors to ask them for guidance. The auditors have stated that it would be an appropriate expenditure under the CARES Act Fund to purchase the ambulances.”

Paul said the amendment will be up for its first reading Tuesday.

“Obviously, we believe that purchasing the ambulances with the CARES Act funds is a great savings to the city and something we would want to take advantage of,” Paul said.

The city jumped at the chance to acquire the two ambulances, which they secured through the state purchasing program. Normally, there’d be a months-long wait but the two ambulances were ready to go. “These two were available, I’m not certain why,” he said. “But that was why we acted so quickly. If we didn’t purchase them now, we would have to wait for another four or five months for new ambulances to be built.”

Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi expects to launch the city’s new ambulance service in September.

Paul, meanwhile, also sunshined resolutions amending the city’s revenues and appropriations for the year ending 2020. He’s also scheduled a finance committee meeting for 7 p.m. Tuesday so they can confer with the auditor’s in executive session.

Paul said they need to “discuss closeout for the financial audit we do each year.”

Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna also told council he’s introducing legislation authorizing City Manager Jim Mavromatis to execute contracts related to the traffic signal upgrade projects.

Mavromatis told council the community’s seen a significant spike in COVID-19 cases over the past month, pointing out that on June 30 there were 80 positive coronavirus cases in Jefferson County.

“Now, July 28, we had 183 cases,” he said. “We have a lot of people that tested that, unfortunately, do not live here but they work here. That’s information we don’t get, it’s reported back to the health department of their home of record. You can see we have issues here, you can see why we closed the city building down.”

First Ward Councilman Asantewa Anyabwile told council she’s getting complaints about “neighbors that have (lots) of cats.”

“Is there an ordinance saying how many cats and dogs a resident is allowed to have on property?” she asked.

Police Chief Bill McCafferty said cats aren’t governed by the state of Ohio, so the city doesn’t, either.

“So a person can have as many cats as they want,” she replied. “So are there ordinances protecting neighbors? What kind of safeguards do we have (for) neighbors?”

McCafferty told there are none, adding, “the problem’s been here 20 years at least.”

Anyabwile also told council she wants to take another look at the public comment regulations, though she’s not sure what form it will take.’

“I’m not sure how to present it,” she said. “I’m not sure if it would be an ordinance or a resolution, but will ask questions this week and try to present it at the next meeting.”

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