Follansbee hears update on park

FOLLANSBEE – Follansbee Council received an update Monday on slips at Follansbee Park while a motion to revisit the city manager’s contract led to a heated debate.

Council authorized City Manager John DeStefano to have a representative of GeoTech, a Pittsburgh engineering firm, mark areas around the park’s uppper shelter that are shifting so they can be monitored and to hire a contractor to remove the shelter’s roof.

DeStefano said he’s spoken to several experts about the slips, which have been attributed to this winter’s heavy snowfall, the freezing and thawing of the ground and steady rainfall in recent weeks.

He said all have recommended removing the shelter’s roof to alleviate pressure on its support beams.

DeStefano said the concrete pad beneath the shelter continues to crack, and the paved walking trail above the shelter has buckled.

City crews have placed yellow tape around the area but Gus DiMarzio, the park’s manager, told council some visitors have stepped under it to use the trail and other facilities. He said there were even a couple of high school students in the shelter itself.

Plans were made Monday to post a snow fence and signs prohibiting access to the shelter site and other facilities, such as the basketball court and skateboarding area, which must be accessed from the same area.

Follansbee Police also will be asked to patrol the area, especially at night, to deter people from entering it.

Asked about the city’s swimming pool, Public Works Director Steve Meca said the pool has been re-caulked and is no longer leaking.

DeStefano noted earlier the pool consultant who suggested re-caulking the pool also advised most pools of its type aren’t drained every year, as the city has done.

First Ward Councilman Vito “Skip” Cutrone asked why a cover hasn’t been used on the pool and was told by DeStefano and others the cost was one concern while another was that someone might fall into the pool unnoticed outside the summer season, when it’s monitored regularly.

DeStefano said he is looking into a cover for the pool.

In other business, 4th Ward Councilwoman Iris Ferrell asked for the city manager’s contract to be put on the agenda for next week’s meeting, saying the current one will expire in August.

When the matter was raised in January, council moved to review DeStefano’s performance in three to four weeks, but that didn’t happen.

There was some debate Monday as to whether DeStefano’s contract is for one or two years.

City Clerk David Kurcina said the tape containing discussion of DeStefano’s last renewal is missing, and he will check the minutes.

City Attorney Michael Gaudio said an earlier council voted for it to be two years. He said the move was made before an election year, so he would remain in the position for at least another year if an entirely new council was voted in.

All of the city’s elected officials serve two-year terms that expire in the same year. It has led some to voice concern about continuity if only new city officials are elected.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Kathy Santoro said she believes DeStefano has been criticized unfairly and threatened by some on council, creating an oppressive atmosphere.

Cutrone accused Santoro of contributing to that. He noted she had accused him of calling other council members to seek support for a proposed relocation of the Follansbee City Building.

The move failed to gain support.

Cutrone said he called two others, not a quorum, to seek their opinion so he would know whether it was worth pursuing in council. He criticized Santoro for not apologizing for the accusation.

Second Ward Councilman Dave Secrist said council members and city officials need to drop what’s been said or done in the past and move forward.

“We can’t just keep beating him and each other down,” he said.

He said DeStefano and future city managers should undergo a periodic performance review using a formal checklist.

Mayor David Velegol Jr. agreed to present some templates for such a review.