Councilman seeks federal, state help

STEUBENVILLE — As the city continues to plan for projects and how to pay for them in the water and wastewater systems, 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto sent a letter to Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, seeking assistance.

DiLoreto, returning to council following an eye injury, wrote, “I am asking the Governor of the State of Ohio to declare in Steubenville a state of emergency due to a lack of funds to update our water and wastewater system via the EPA.”

DiLoreto said the citizens cannot afford large rate increases to cover an estimated $29 million worth of projects in the coming years. He noted the population has dropped to 18,000, and said of the population, “one third are on fixed incomes with the same pensions being used for medical care and other expenses which are rising every day. One third are working at a lesser rate than what the steel mills paid.”

“Finally, the other one third receive a check from the federal government who do not pay taxes but drain the city’s resources of police, fire, streets and court systems especially.”

DiLoreto said the state has a billion-dollar rainy day fund and it would be prudent to share some with the city.

“I am sure if the late Wayne Hays was alive and former Congressman Doug Applegate was still congressman, some help would be forthcoming to the city of Steubenville. We do not want to be another Flint, Mich.,” DiLoreto concluded.

During his weekly report to City Council, City Manager Jim Mavromatis said he talked with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency asking for a visit from its director, Craig W. Butler, but he was told Butler would wait until the city and OEPA finish negotiations over a consent decree for the sewer system.

Water and Wastewater Superintendent Chuck Murphy briefed council on loan applications for the sewage treatment plant, with bid specifications being developed for work on the water system with consulting engineers Arcadis.

Murphy emphasized the ongoing planning work is aimed toward lessening the impact of utility rate increases.

“We’re trying to get the right recipe for this, the best possible one anyway,” he said. Arcadis will send a representative with city officials to a meeting Oct. 12 of the Small Community Environmental Infrastructure Group, where nearly every grant program that could help the city will be represented.

Council tabled two city work force ordinances that would allow hiring of a superintendent to split off the water department from Murphy. The ordinances will be discussed at a utilities committee meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Council received the annual report from the Steubenville Visitor Center from Executive Director Judy Bratten. The report also included an update on work being done this year, including the ongoing painting of a Moses Fleetwood Walker mural on the side of Attorney Jerry Boswell’s office building on North Third Street. Walker is credited with being the first African American major league baseball player in the 19th century. He lived in Steubenville and is buried in Union Cemetery.

She said a mural of Dorothy Sloop, who was the subject of the 1960s hit song “Hang On Sloopy” used by the Ohio State University Marching Band as a rally song will be the next mural to be painted.

Several of the city’s more than 20 murals, dating back to the 1980s, have been undergoing restoration.

In other matters:

• Recreation Director Lori Fetherolf said attendance at the Belleview pool for the summer was up by 17 percent from 2017. The pool closed for the season Sunday. She said there were no behavior problems at the pool for the season, rentals were up and there were 62 people who took swimming lessons this year.

“It was a big turning point for us,” Fetherolf said of the season.

• Mayor Jerry Barilla issued a reminder that the dedication of the Calvin Jones statue will be held at Harding Stadium at 5 p.m. Friday. Jones was a Big Red standout football player who went on to star at the University of Iowa and played in the Canadian Football League before he was killed in a plane crash in the 1950s. He was the first African American featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

• Mavromatis reported citizens are helping in the effort to catch illegal dumpers by notifying the city. “We are getting a little better handle on it, with the citizens as our eyes and ears out there to help us, and that’s what we need,” he said.

• Council approved Barilla’s reappointment of Debbie Venci to the Jefferson County Port Authority and appointment of Michael Reed to the Board of Zoning Appeals.