Follansbee discusses renovations to City Building

FOLLANSBEE – Follansbee Council has made cuts to renovation plans for the Follansbee City Building but a few council members have suggested they could be cut more.

City Manager John DeStefano on Monday asked council its wishes for the proposed project, which originally had been estimated at $680,000 and included the addition of an elevator to the second floor, reconfiguration of the building’s stairs, addition of handicap-accessible restrooms and additional space upstairs for the police department and improvements to the electrical wiring, plumbing and air ducts.

The city was awarded a $190,000 federal grant to aid in making the building handicap-accessible.

Earlier this year council suggested reducing the project in light of cuts made to various city departments.

DeStefano said the project could be reduced to between $300,000 and $400,000 but it would cover improvements only to the building from council chambers to the building’s far end and nothing upstairs, except for the elevator and stairs.

Fifth Ward Councilman Tom Ludewig questioned the need for an elevator.

One reason the elevator was suggested was to aid volunteers with the Follansbee R.E.A.C.H. Program in carrying canned goods to the second floor. But the charity has since moved to the former St. Anthony School.

The only current occupant of the second floor is City Attorney Michael Gaudio, who leases space there for his private law practice.

DeStefano noted there also had been plans for city police to use part of the second floor as they had complained of a lack of space for equipment, evidence and records.

Second Ward Councilman Dave Secrist asked whether renovations are needed.

DeStefano said the building is in great need of new electrical wiring, plumbing and ductwork. He noted handicap-accessible restrooms by council chambers would comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Council agreed to discuss the matter further at a work session to be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 18. The session will be followed by its next regular meeting, which was moved from Monday, which is Veterans Day, to that date.

Mayor David Velegol Jr. suggested inviting a representative of McKinley and Associates, the architectural firm for the project, to answer questions from council.

In other business, council:

Made plans at its next meeting to consider seeking bids for the installation of two catch basins near Blosser Lane to alleviate flooding from runoff there, as suggested by engineer Paul Ghosh.

Discussed implementing a log book for city employees drawing gas from the city’s tanks for city vehicles. The move is intended to discourage employees from taking gas for their own personal use.

Heard reports on the city’s general, water, sewer, coal severance and Urban Development Action Grant funds from Marc Abraham, an independent accountant employed by the city; and Boyd Hanson of C.S. McKee, the Pittsburgh firm that manages the UDAG account.

The two were invited to inform newer council members about the city’s finances.

Joined Velegol in recognizing the Follansbee Middle School Cheerleaders, Brooke High School girls soccer team and Matty Filippelli and Brooke High School football players who have become known as the Sign Crew.

Megan Harless, the cheerleaders’ coach, said the girls have practiced until 8 p.m. after school and on Saturdays, and their hard work paid off with their second consecutive OVAC championship win.

Lee Weppler, the soccer team’s head coach, said in addition to winning their own OVAC championship, the team ranks fifth in the state for their division and had a season record of 16 wins, four losses and two ties.

Dana Cuomo, the high school’s speech therapist, explained the Sign Crew earned its nickname because the seven football players learned sign language from her so they could communicate with team manager Filippelli.

Filippelli isn’t deaf but was born with chromosome 2 partial deletion, a rare genetic condition that makes it difficult for him to communicate verbally, so he uses sign language.

The story of Filippelli and the seven athletes – Matt Hartman, who has since transferred to Weir High School; Thomas Cole, Justin Elliott, Michael Kurcina, Matthew Lazear, Justin Loughrie and Aaron Walker – earned them third place in an online sportsmanship competition held by MedExpress Urgent Care and a $1,000 prize to be used for materials for the football team and students receiving speech therapy from Cuomo.

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