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Guest column/‘The bridge to nowhere’ and other city concerns

Tuesday evening, I attended the Steubenville Council meeting. I, along with several others, addressed the City Council with respect to the condition of the city and proposed expenditure of ARPA funds. Complaints ranged, among others, to a couple having had muddy water in their home for years with no relief, uncut weeds, lack of maintenance at the ballfields and a deteriorating infrastructure. This letter addresses some of these issues.

This Tuesday, at 6:30 p.m., City Council is holding a Finance Committee meeting to discuss the use of ARPA funds, for among other things, the rebuilding of a bridge in Beatty Park. Council is already prepared to spend upward of $70,000 for an architectural study for the bridge and is estimating $800,000 as the preliminary cost of the bridge itself. This project can be titled “The Bridge to Nowhere.” It is now closed but all that is beyond it is a shelter house in need of repair and there is nothing in the works to rehab it. The consensus of the citizens in attendance was that this is a waste of money given the other needs of the city.

The city manager affirmed that the water line replacements in the city have not been completed, the city is under a consent decree with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to replace sewer lines, the West End water tower needs to be replaced and the city recently had to undertake repairs to a major sanitary sewer line that recently broke behind Devonshire Boulevard. There are streets that need to be repaved, others that need to be crack-sealed, sidewalks in the downtown that are in need of repair and property owners ignoring the problem with no pressure from the city to make repairs, and the city not making them and then putting a lien on the property.

ARPA money is only contemplated to be used for the water tower which, to me, would indicate another large increase in water and sewer bills.

As mentioned, there were questions about maintenance of the ballfields. The recreation director explained the lack of funding necessary to do all that is necessary and the lack of manpower with which to do it. I don’t understand why more people are not hired, not only in recreation but in maintenance and repair. There is certainly enough money available with which to do so. There was a time when high school and college students were hired as part-time summer help to do a lot of the work in these areas.

In the M&R Department, the complaint of council was that workers had to have a CDL license so they could drive the trucks. This is not true unless the union contract states this, and if it does, council needs to reopen talks with the union to eliminate this or the city will never be able to hire workers. If my research is correct, a CDL license is only necessary if a commercial vehicle is being used for business purposes, and a commercial vehicle is defined as weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Council could always request an opinion from the law director’s office on this to see if I am correct or not.

These are just some of the problems facing our city, all of them more important than that bridge. If council decides to proceed with the bridge in Beatty Park, I would request that each member who votes for it state why it is more important to spend $800,000 or so to rebuild it, plus the architectural fees of approximately $70,000, rather than on necessary improvements in other areas.

(Mascio, a resident of Steubenville, is a former city law director and Jefferson County Common Pleas Court judge.)

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