Steubenville leaders vent frustration with graffiti

STEUBENVILLE — City leaders vented their frustration Tuesday with the person or persons responsible for painting graffiti on properties throughout town, including their own Belleview Park restroom.

“It’s been going on about a year,” Fourth Ward Councilman Scott Dressel said, pointing out whoever is responsible has also targeted private properties. “It’s the same graffiti, the same technique, the same colors, the same words. It may be positive graffiti, but it’s still graffiti and it’s illegal.”

A resident spotted the graffiti on the restroom wall last week and reported it to City Manager Jim Mavromatis, who said any destruction is a problem.

“I am upset,” he said. “This is the third year in a row we’ve spent money to fix the fencing, but vandals keep breaking through, kicking out the slats. It’s flat-out destruction.. And now there’s the issue of (someone) destroying the look of the bathroom.”

Mayor Jerry Barrila said he’s hoping new lights installed next to the Belleview playgrounds will help them figure out who’s behind the problems, while Police Chief Bill McCafferty has asked council to consider funding a new surveillance system that could monitor high-risk areas.

“It’s discouraging that it’s a continuing problem,” Barrila added. “But with better lighting and cameras, hopefully we can apprehend those responsible.”

Mavromatis said they’re trying to pinpoint when the vandalism happened in hopes it will make it easier for police to pinpoint the perpetrators.

First Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoretto called it “utterly discouraging,” adding it’s a shame to “spend money, trying to keep the park in shape,” only to have vandals destroy their work.

Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna said he, too, is frustrated, given all the money the city’s spent fixing the damage at Belleview Park only to have to redo it, ‘over-and-over again.”

“Who would damage a childrens’ playground,” he added.

In other action, council told Utility Director Chuck Murphy told Ohio EPA it is seriously considering his department’s strategy for addressing problems associated with the collapse of an old brick overflow line between the county jail and the Ohio River. Ohio EPA wants to be sure the city is serious about dealing with the aging overflow sewer lines before it signs off on a low-interest 30-year loan.

City Finance Director told council the loan interest rate would be “lower than we can get on the bond market.”

“I think it makes sense, it’s an improvement we have to make,” he added.

Murphy said the pricetag is currently expected to exceed $1 million, but in the process of diverting the flow into the Dock Street line to the interceptor and, eventually, the treatment plant. That will them to decommission both the Dock Street and North Street overflow lines.

Counacil offered its assurances that, at least for now, their plan is to fix the problem areas.

Final readings also were heard of ordinances allowing the city to sell old water meters as well as excess property – a vehicle assigned to the planning and zoning department; and directing interest from the water, wastewater and sanitation funds to be directed back into those funds. All three measures take effect in January.