Steubenville officials probe water line break

STEUBENVILLE — City officials are trying to determine the extent of damage from a water line break Tuesday that left three offices in the new municipal building flooded.

City Manager Jim Mavromatis said crews working on the valve replacement project came across an active water line no one knew existed and it snapped, sending “massive amounts” of water cascading into the Court Street alley.

The line “should have been shut off nine years ago when the new building was built,” he said.

“The new building has some structural cracks in the drywall,” he said. “We don’t know how far in (the cracks) go, we have to have that looked at.”

Mavromatis said he also concerned the “sudden rush of water coming in the sides of the building” might have caused the foundation to move.

He added they don’t know yet if insurance will cover the damage.

“It just happened today, we haven’t even looked at that yet,” he said.

In other matters, a meeting of council’s parks and recreation committee was scheduled for June 11 to discuss what to do with a $100,000 grant from the state of Ohio for a water line to the marina. To complete the extension, the city would need to come up with another $190,000 in addition to the grant.

Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna has said if the water line project is out of reach, consideration should be given to convincing state representatives to repurpose the funds.

“We need to make a decision before that money is lost,” Villamagna said.

Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn called for the committee meeting, saying council needs to understand “all the different options,” including persuading the state to redirect the grant money to another project.

“I’m all about grant money, and I don’t want the city to lose the $100,000,” said Hahn, who insists access to water could unlock the marina’s development potential. “We need to see how it can best be used to help the city of Steubenville and, hopefully, how it can be used at the marina. But, to be honest, there are probably more immediate needs at the marina, like redoing the boat ramp or some other use.”

Council voted to amend the existing table of organization to make room for two part-time workers in the recreation department, though 2nd Ward Councilman Craig Petrella was concerned they’d been “mislead” during the budget process to believe converting several part-time jobs to one full-time position would give the department scheduling flexibility, even though the department would have fewer manhours to work with.

“You told council you could handle the workload with one flex person — there’d be better flow, fewer interruptions,” Petrella told Parks Director Lori Featherolf. “If we have the money I don’t mind doing it, but I will not be misled.”

Parks officials came under fire recently due to conditions at city ballfields. Featherolf had said excessive rainfall, coupled with staffing and budget constraints, had impeded preparations for the baseball season.

“I did not ask for seasonal workers,” Featherolf told Petrella. “I was told last month the money was in the budget for two seasonal workers, so I hired two people.”

Finance Director Dave Lewis said they’d budgeted for two seasonal employees for 24 weeks. Featherolf, however, said college students typically apply for the seasonal jobs at the end of the spring semester and work about 11 weeks. She said they weren’t able to find a full-time hire right away, either.

Hahn told Petrella council had instructed Featherolf to hire seasonal workers, too, because “we were sensing we needed to do more” to ready playing fields for the season.

“I don’t feel like she came to us and said something different,” Hahn added.

Petrella also took issue with, among other things, damage to a swingset at a playground in his ward that he’d been told was repaired and hadn’t been.

“It’s not done,” he said. “I want it done, and I want to know it’s done immediately.”

Council also heard the first reading of the revised sanitation ordinance.

During a finance committee meeting prior to the council meeting, Lewis told council water accounts and consumption are down slightly. He said there are about 53 fewer water customers compared to April 2018.

“We’re hoping to see a turnaround,” he said, suggesting it could be just a temporary adjustment.

Council met with Featherolf in executive session after the public meeting.

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