Follansbee hears tax, dog worries

FOLLANSBEE – A Follansbee councilwoman aired concerns about the collection of delinquent taxes from local businesses, and a local woman asked for more enforcement of the city’s leash and vicious dog ordinances at Monday’s Follansbee Council meeting.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Iris Ferrell asked about efforts to collect delinquent business and occupation taxes from businesses, contractors doing business in the city and landlords.

It’s been a recurring subject, as council has made an effort in recent years to tighten its budget, citing declining revenue.

City Manager John DeStefano said of eight identified recently as delinquent, all but two have come to the City Building recently to make payments. He said that doesn’t include landlords who live out of the area and are more difficult to reach.

First Ward Councilman Dave Secrist suggested the city withhold the business licenses of those who have failed to pay or arrange payments in installments.

DeStefano confirmed business owners have been advised over the years their licenses may not be renewed if they don’t pay their taxes, but he’s learned since that no such penalty exists in the city’s B&O ordinance.

City Attorney Michael Gaudio confirmed that, adding it may not be in the city’s best interest to block a business’ ability to make money, including the taxes it owes the city.

Gaudio said the city can seek legal action against those that are delinquent but must weigh the amount it hopes to recover and the cost in legal fees and other expenses it will incur in the effort.

Ferrell said she believes those who are delinquent should be given a chance to repay in installments if needed but the city shouldn’t allow businesses to blatantly decline to pay.

DeStefano said he will work to claim the unpaid taxes.

“We’ll continue to track, contact (those who are delinquent) and attempt to get the money in,” he said.

In other business, council heard from Karen Kafton, a resident of Parkview who said she is afraid to walk on her street and another area of her neighborhood because vicious dogs have charged at her and her dogs.

“I don’t think anyone should have a fear of walking their dog in their neighborhood and I think a lot of people do,” she said.

Kafton said she has fenced her dogs in her yard and walks them with a leash, but some residents allow their dogs, including a pit bull terrier, to run loose. She asked if the city has a leash law and vicious dog ordinance.

Gaudio said a city ordinance does establish a fine for residents cited for allowing their dogs to run loose while a state law for vicious dogs supersedes any ordinance the city may have for them.

Under state law, owners of dogs considered to be vicious are required to obtain a license from their county’s assessor. It doesn’t specify breeds that may be considered vicious.

They also are required to “secure such dog in such a manner to prevent injury to a person who lawfully passes through or enters upon the property of the keeper or owner.”

State law also allows a judge to order for a dog to be killed if it’s found to be in the habit of biting or attacking people or other animals.

Mayor David Velegol Jr. told Kafton owners of dogs that have been allowed to run loose will be summoned to the city’s municipal court.

Following the meeting, Gaudio encouraged Kafton to call Follansbee Police immediately if a dog attacks her or her dogs.

A fight between two pit bull terriers and a collie in the city in May resulted in two people being bitten while attempting to intervene and the collie dying.

The pitbulls were shot and killed by Wellsburg Police, who responded while Follansbee Police were transporting an offender to the Northern Regional Jail.

According to police, a man was walking the collie, without a leash, when it encountered the pit bulls, which also were without leashes.

The owner of the pitbulls was fined for violating the leash ordinance.

The incident occurred on Oak Alley in a separate neighborhood from Kafton’s.

Also on Monday:

Velegol advised DeStefano to seek an engineer to guide the city in planning the replacement of steel beams supporting the steel grating by the city’s fire station.

Made from sections taken from the deck of the Market Street years ago, the grating lays over Allegheny Creek, which runs along Allegheny Street, beneath a bridge that extends beneath state Route 2 at that intersection and into the Ohio River.

DeStefano said the beams and others supporting the bridge beneath Route 2 are deteriorating. He said he’s asked state highway officials to address the beams beneath the highway, but those near the fire station are the city’s responsibility.

DeStefano asked council to consider its wishes in replacing equipment at Mahan Playground. After removing aging equipment said to be a hazard, council earlier received proposals for playground equipment costing from $23,628 to $34,051.

Council members expressed reservations about the costs then, citing recent cuts to the city’s budget.

First Ward Councilman Vito “Skip” Cutrone suggested purchasing a few pieces of equipment, such as swings and a slide, at this time, with more possible in the future.

Second Ward Councilman Dave Secrist said the city shouldn’t expend more than $15,000 or $20,000 if possible.

DeStefano said a woman has asked permission to stage her wedding vows in the gazebo at Follansbee Park. He said he told the woman, who plans to hold her reception at the nearby Follansbee Community House, she may do so but should be aware there may be other activity in the park at the time.

DeStefano said other wedding ceremonies have been held at the gazebo.

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