Follansbee council tables budget

FOLLANSBEE – With a deadline for the city’s budget just a week away, Follansbee Council has tabled its approval until Wednesday.

Council members agreed to meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Follansbee City Building after asking City Manager John DeStefano to make two changes to the $2.7 million budget he’d presented at a special meeting Monday.

The budget must be submitted to the state Auditor’s Office by March 28 but can be amended afterward.

DeStefano was asked to establish a contingency fund and restore $10,000 cut from the building enforcement committee.

Helping DeStefano to take those steps will be a projected $60,000 decrease in health coverage for the city’s 35 full-time employees he had not anticipated.

He and other city officials had been concerned that city employees could be required to contribute to their insurance premiums in order for their coverage to meet conditions established by the Affordable Care Act.

But DeStefano said the city is fortunate because it will be able to provide employees with very similar coverage, through the same provider (Coventry), and most will see small changes in their cost.

The city’s relatively small number of employees was cited as one reason.

Regarding the contingency fund, DeStefano noted the city has relied on its Urban Development Action Grant fund and a fund established with proceeds from the sale of city property to developers for the Sheetz store and gas station.

The property is among land at the city’s north end purchased from Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel by the city for the purpose of marketing it for economic development.

DeStefano has allocated $200,000 from about $400,000 in the latter fund for street paving in the upcoming fiscal year.

Fifth Ward Councilman Tom Ludewig said the city can’t depend on another land sale to support street paving and should be setting aside funds for the following year.

First Ward Councilman Vito “Skip” Cutrone and 4th Ward Councilwoman Iris Ferrell supported Ludewig’s opinion that the city’s streets are in great need of repair.

Second Ward Councilman Dave Secrist said the city should adopt a five-year plan for street paving, a move supported by Mayor David Velegol Jr.

Ludewig also took issue with DeStefano’s cutting of $10,000 from the building enforcement committee, which he said was the only cut made to the budget.

Following the meeting, Ludewig said $30,000 allocated to the building enforcement committee has allowed it to demolish five to six dilapidated and abandoned houses each year. The cost for each ranges from $7,000 to $12,000, he said.

Ludewig said the houses aren’t good candidates for repair and present a safety hazard and eyesore.

In other business, council approved the $12,670 purchase of new playground equipment for Mahan Playground from Recreation Brands of Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh company.

The equipment includes a swing set with four swings and another piece with two slides and a climbing structure. It will replace equipment removed from the playground last year by council, which cited its deteriorating condition.

DeStefano said the new equipment should arrive in four to six weeks and will be installed by city crews.

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