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Council debates increasing certain fines

STEUBENVILLE — City Council introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at beefing up the fines for parking commercial trucks in residential areas.

The proposed legislation grew out of a 90-minute safety committee meeting, which preceded council’s weekly meeting. Also discussed in the committee setting were the need for a dedicated animal control officer, revisiting archaic taxi cab regulations and how best to mark handicapped parking places.

The amendment, as proposed, would bump the fine for a first offense up to a mandatory $150. For a second offense, the mandatory fine would be $250, and for a third offense, $500.

Council also asked law director Costa Mastros to include language holding offenders accountable for towing and boot costs.

The idea, 4th Ward Councilman Scott Dressel said, is to encourage drivers to find places they can legally park their rigs overnight.

“We need to make the ticket more expensive than truck stops,” Dressel said. “Why not just raise the fine to make it more expensive than a truck stop?”

He told council Steubenville “probably has a good 10 trucks, some days less, some days more” parked where they don’t belong by statute.

“We need to find a solution for them, they need a place to park,” Dressel said.

“That’s not the issue,” 3rd Ward Councilman Eric Timmons said. “I don’t care what they do, that’s their issue to deal with.”

Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna agreed, saying council “isn’t here to babysit these people, these are grown men.”

Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn suggested inserting language that would make it a towable offense, while Dressel asked that police have the discretion to put boots on trucks when prudent.

Council members, meanwhile, made it clear they think having an animal control officer on the city payroll is a must, though a final decision won’t be made until they have assurances they have room in the budget to cover the added cost.

“It’s the consensus of council that’s where we want to go,” Timmons said. “It sounds good.”

Timmons, though, cautioned that having someone whose job it is to address problems with loose and aggressive dogs on staff “is not going to stop a dog from attacking a person.”

Timmons said an animal control officer could keep tabs on what punishments are imposed when dogs attack passersby, pointing out there’ve been instances where an aggressive dog is back with that family after (biting) and still there weeks later.”

One case cited by council involved a pedestrian who was badly bitten by a dog that attacked her as she walked by, then was threatened days later by the dog’s owner.

“We do need someone who can go around (and address problems),” he said. “One of these times a dog is going to injure someone seriously. I don’t want that on my conscience. Whatever we need to do to get this taken care of (we need to do).”

Because they want the animal control officer to have the authority to carry a gun and arrest people, council was adamant the person filling the position should be a police officer. While their primary focus would be animal control, he or she could be assigned other duties as deemed necessary by the chief.

“You don’t want to give just anybody a gun,” Paul said.

“Any time you can have an officer in those situations, it’s a plus, and they can be dispatched to do other things if needed” City Manager Jim Mavromatis said.

“I would think if you’re going to have somebody going to someone’s house, it would be far more effective (for them to be) wearing a uniform and carrying a badge than if you look like me or Eric,” Dressel added.

Mavromatis pointed out it’s impossible to enforce all the laws of the city as is, “so we need to figure out how to do it.”

“It all comes down to what the judge does,” Chief Bill McCafferty said. “When a person gets bit … you start out with citation for dog at large, then when it gets to court if the judge looks (at the paperwork) and sees it bit someone, then he raises it to next level.”

Second Ward Councilman Craig Petrella said much as he likes the idea of having a dedicated animal control officer, council needs to make sure they have the funds first.

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