Police chief addresses alleged rape comments

STEUBENVILLE – Police Chief Bill McCafferty said Wednesday night an investigation regarding an alleged August rape incident involving a 16-year-old Weirton girl and two Steubenville High School students is, “active and ongoing.”

“I always want to protect the integrity of a case. But recent social media comments are sometimes wrong and distracting,” McCafferty told City Council members Wednesday night.

It was the first meeting of the new year for the council as it approved emergency legislation and then listened to McCafferty discuss the rape report that has garnered national attention in recent weeks.

“Shortly after the rape was reported and our single juvenile officer started his investigation I realized it would be a big case for him so I moved a former juvenile officer from uniform patrol back into juvenile to assist with other cases and allow the main juvenile officer to focus on this case. A short time later two arrests were made based on statements,” McCafferty explained.

“The state attorney general has assisted us with two prosecutors and an investigator. There have been a lot of accusations out in the community, but the police department has done our best in this case. The sheriff’s department has assisted us with the confiscating of cell phones. Those phones were promptly turned over to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification. And all of the information we have gathered has been turned over to the two state prosecutors,” continued McCafferty.

“And, as I have said since the beginning of this case if anyone has information regarding this incident please contact the state attorney general’s office or the Steubenville police. In order to take any case to trial you have to have evidence,” stated McCafferty.

Council started the new year passing two emergency ordinances for repairs to a culvert repair project.

City Engineer Michael Dolak closed part of Lauretta Drive from John Scott Highway to St. Charles Drive before Christmas, citing a broken culvert that runs under the roadway.

Dolak said the road will remain closed until the culvert is replaced.

“In early December I started receiving phone calls about water flooding John Scott Highway. We investigated th area and found the culvert that runs under the road had collapsed. Because of the holidays there is a delay in getting a new 93-foot concrete culvert pipe manufactured. We expect the pipe to be delivered to the site by Jan. 14 and hope to re-open the road by mid-February,” said Dolak.

“I know approximately 3,200 vehicles travel that road daily and this is a major inconvenience, but the culvert needs to be replaced. This project was actually scheduled for August, so we have moved the work forward by six months,” Dolak noted.

During the first regular meeting of the year, council approved legislation authorizing the city manager to apply for an emergency grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission for the culvert repair.

“This grant will total approximately $84,000 and will help us with the funding for the repair work,” said Dolak.

Council also gave its collective OK to an emergency ordinance waiving formal bidding requirements and directing the city manager to enter into a $105,293 contract with the James White Construction Co. of Weirton for the construction and repair of the Lauretta Drive culvert.

Sixth Ward Councilman David Lalich called for a finance committee meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday prior to the sunshine meeting.

And, 3rd Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf asked for a service committee meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 22 to discuss proposals for Phase Two of the Lovers Lane improvement project.

According to Dolak, council will hear proposals from W.E. Quicksall of New Philadelphia and W.E. Stillson of Columbus for the Fort Steuben Mall and Lovers Lane intersection.

“We are looking at a roundabout concept as well as a third turning lane for that intersection. You will hear plans from each consulting firm and I will then ask you for a decision on which plan to approve,” said Dolak.

He estimated the design plan will cost approximately $130,000, while the actual construction work will cost between $900,000 to $1.1 million.

“That is one reason we have broken the Lovers Lane project into different phases. The overall expenses are prohibitive, but doing the work in phases will allow us to seeking federal and state funding,” said City Manager Cathy Davison.

Several council members applauded the city workers for keeping the city streets plowed and salted during recent snow storms.

“All of the credit goes to the street department as well as the employees in the electrical department, water department, sanitation department and wastewater department. They came out and put in some very long hours to clean the streets throughout the city as well as maintaining those streets during the snow. I would also like to thank our street department foreman Mark Milewsky for his planning and supervising all of the plows and salt trucks. It was a lot of hard work, but Mark and the city employees really did an excellent job under trying conditions,” said Street Superintendent Bob Baird.

Lalich also thanked the water line repair crew for fixing four water line breaks in the city’s West End this week.

“These guys were standing waist deep in freezing water to repair the line breaks. It wasn’t easy but, they stayed on the job until the line breaks were repaired,” Lalich said.

(Gossett can be contacted at dgossett@heraldstaronline.com.)