Council gets updates about First Fridays

FIRST FRIDAY UPDATE — Therese Nelson provided City Council with an update and an invitation to come to the first of a hoped-for series of First Fridays on Fourth. The events, planned for the first Friday of every month from May through November, will feature local bands, vendors, entertainment, events and activities for children and, for the May 4 event, a museum-quality display of artworks by local artists in Leonardo’s Coffeehouse. First Fridays on Fourth begin at 6 p.m. in the 100 block of North Fourth Street, which will be blocked to traffic for the events. -- Paul Giannamore

STEUBENVILLE — On a Tuesday evening where the at-times gloomy picture of the near-term future of the wastewater department matched the rain falling outside, City Council received a bright spot with an update about First Fridays on Fourth.

Downtown business proprietor Therese Nelson is organizing the event with the Steubenville Young Preservationists and the Harmonium Project. She invited members of City Council to join in the fun, which will run from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. May 4. The plan is to hold the events on the first Friday of the month from May to November, when the Nutcracker Village will become active for the Christmas season.

Nelson said the idea is to show young people and those who weren’t living here in downtown’s heyday what a busy and vibrant business district can be.

“There are so many young people who are so ready for a good evening and they’re not afraid of downtown,” Nelson told council. “They want to see it become a place to hang out, a place to spend money, a place to spend weekends and bring their families and their friends.”

Mayor Jerry Barilla has been following the work of downtown revitalization expert Roger Brooks, who suggests a step is to hold 250 days of activities a year downtown to generate traffic and interest.

“This is the beginning of our efforts,” Nelson said. The plans for the May 4 First Friday on Fourth include a museum- quality art gallery on display in her Leonardo’s Coffeehouse and Renaissance Coffee Roasting Co., 159 N. Fourth St.

Attendees will be invited to take part in a mugshot mosaic mural. There will be artisan vendors, food vendors and the Hightower Brewing Co. from Rayland will be there. There will be a children’s section, window painting and four live bands, fire juggling, a magician and more.

Nelson said one of her dreams is for the underprivileged who can’t make it to arts and cultural districts in other cities to experience a bit of that in Steubenville.

Fifth Ward Councilman Willie Paul said, “I thank you for all you do, you and your family. I’m really proud of what you’re doing with the young preservationists.”

Barilla congratulated her on the opening of the Steubenville Popcorn Co., Drosselmeyer’s Nutcracker Shop and the coffee shop.

“It’s a huge improvement on North Fourth Street,” Barilla said.

Nelson said she’s hoping for as many as 400 to attend.

Regarding the sewer system, council received the monthly financial report from Finance Director David Lewis. He said the wastewater fund is spending about $300,000 more than it takes in annually.

He projects the fund will go into the red in 2021. Despite the major repair and upgrade needs in the water department that have been discussed for much of the year, Lewis said the water fund is relatively stable by comparison.

City Manager Jim Mavromatis said he’ll be meeting with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency today to discuss issues regarding the sewer system. He said a list of projects the EPA is requiring tops a rough estimate of $7.6 million for the sewer system.

“We don’t have to do it all in one year, but we have to set a time schedule. But, if we do not have the money, we can’t do it,” Mavromatis said.

He said the city’s outside legal counsel on the EPA matters is recommending a rate study to determine what city residents can afford in terms of a rate increase to cover the cost of the sewer system upgrades. Mavromatis said the city can’t borrow money for the sewer system based on the condition of the sewer fund. Mavromatis said the EPA won’t dictate what the city’s rates will be, but the study will indicate what citizens could afford and decisions will be up to City Council.

Council introduced an ordinance to pay for studies relating to making permanent a test installation for a peracetic acid treatment system that the city uses to treat high flow during rainstorms when stormwater and sanitary flow combine. The treatment system allows quick treatment of the water for eventual discharge to the river. The city has been overflowing millions of gallons of combined sewage during large storms through a number of points in the system.

In other business:

• Lewis reported city income tax collections through the first quarter of the year are up by $204,000 compared with 2017. Lewis said the increases appear to be coming from retail, royalty payments in oil and gas, production, distribution and medical, as well as an increase in withholding from education.

• Lewis reported the state auditor’s office approved use of sanitation funds for demolition contracts, allowing the city to proceed with several demolitions.

• Council approved a contract with Class IV water operator Robert Disch.

• Was told by Mavromatis that there are 30 applicants for three parks and six maintenance department part-time seasonal jobs.

(Giannamore can be contacted at pgiannamore@heraldstaronline.com.)

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