Interesting week in city

The past week was certainly an interesting one in Steubenville.


City Council will certainly have a new look in January. Michael R. Johnson in the 2nd Ward and Bob Villamagna in the 6th Ward both were victorious in Tuesday’s Democratic primary vote and, with no Republicans or independents having filed for the November general election, will join City Council in January.

The two will be the latest new faces on a panel that will include Councilman at large Kenny Davis and 5th Ward Councilman Willie Paul, who both began their terms in January 2012, and 4th Ward Councilwoman Angela Kirtdoll Suggs, who joined council in June 2011. They will be joining council veterans Gerald DiLoreto, who represents the 1st Ward, and Greg Metcalf, who represents the 3rd Ward.

Johnson and Villamagna will replace longtime council members Rick Perkins and David “Pokey” Lalich, who chose not to seek re-election. Both have expressed concern about violence in our city, and both appear ready to take that problem on. Johnson said he made the decision to seek office after a 2011 shooting incident on Pleasant Heights left bullet holes in the homes of his neighbors, while Villamagna brings experience as a longtime city police officer.

What was probably most refreshing about both races was that Johnson and his opponent, Lori Mason, and Villamagna and his opponents, Bob Chapman and Daniel Thorne, took the high road in their campaigns. That says a lot about all five people.

Clearly, our city is facing many problems, and that means the learning curve for the two newest members of council will be steep. By all indications, they are planning to use the next six-plus months to prepare for the challenges that are still to come.

Members of the city administration should not be surprised at the frustration residents are feeling concerning the fire station on Pleasant Heights.

At various times recently, it has been announced that the station would close; then it was announced that it would not close but firefighters would be laid off, a move which was botched and subsequently overturned; and finally, Tuesday, it was decided that the station would be closed and two firefighters would be laid off.

Admittedly, the city faces what, at times, seems to be a no-win situation in balancing the finances and the safety of the public. But, it was also not right to allow the fate of the fire station at the corner of Lawson Avenue and West Market Street and the firefighters who staff it to remain up in the air for such a long period.

That said, it was good to learn about some real positive news.

That came in the form of Monday’s decision by the city’s planning and zoning commission to expedite the rezoning request that will allow the former Temple Beth Israel on Lovers Lane to become a senior citizens center. The date for the public hearing on the request to rezone the property as a community-commercial district was moved to June 10 from July 1. If all goes as planned, members of City Council will vote on the request for the third and final time on June 18.

When open, the center will provide a much-needed hub of activities for senior citizens from all parts of Jefferson County. It was made possible when Tri-State Health Services Inc., a co-sponsor of Trinity Health System, completed its purchase of the synagogue.

It’s another example of economic progress being made in our area. That includes the recent renovations at Hollywood City Center, Trinity’s expanded services being offered at the Tri-State Plaza on Mall Drive and the Texas Roadhouse steakhouse that has been built at the Fort Steuben Mall and is expected to open later this month.

These additions are good for our area, and help give us a little more to build on.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)