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Emergency services hot topic in Steubenville

STEUBENVILLE — Fifth Ward Councilman Willie Paul was clearly upset when he found out he couldn’t call for an executive session to find out about the city fire union’s proposal for providing emergency medical services in the city.

Paul, who’d been out of town, was irritated that he’d found out the union was working on a plan after council’s Feb. 5 meeting when International Association of Fire Fighters Local 228 President Joe Ribar told reporters his membership “is ready to propose a 100 percent fire-based EMS” to council, “but it’s going to take a group effort on the part of the city manager, city council, the union and fire chief to make it work.”

Paul said the information had been given to Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi, who was to present it to City Manager Jim Mavromatis.

“I know there’s some issues that the union proposed — I wanted to know if we could discuss it in executive session but was told no,” Paul said, pointing out, “We need to go forward, we don’t want to drag our feet.”

So Paul asked Capaldi in open chamber what he knew about the union’s proposal.

“I don’t have a plan from him,” Capaldi replied. “I mean … yeah, I don’t.”

But Paul said council needs to be kept in the loop.

“I don’t want to be blindsided,” Paul said. “We need to know where we’re going with this.”

Fourth Ward Councilman Scott Dressel pointed out council was still waiting for information that had been requested from Ambulance Service Inc., the for-profit company that has served the community for decades, as well as Jefferson County 9-1-1.

Mavromatis said he was “still waiting” for the information.

“This is a decision that has to be made by council on my recommendation, based on information given to me,” he said.

“Before we can make an intelligent decision we need to have some facts and figures,” 2nd Ward Councilman Craig Petrella said. “I want to make it very clear this council is not dragging its feet — we’re waiting for information.”

Third Ward Councilman Eric Timmons agreed, pointing out how in recent weeks they’d heard ASI’s owners plead for “some sort of city involvement in the service, whether (it’s) by assigning an EMT-trained firefighter to each ambulance, providing in-kind contributions or by grant writing,” as well as 9-1-1 Director Rob Herrington, who told them communities with mutual aid agreements are overwhelmed with the frequency with which they’ve had to provide emergency medical services in Steubenville.

“We need to make up our minds, that’s what we’re trying to do,” Timmons said.

In other matters, Mavromatis told council the lines that had been painted in front of the police and fire stations will have to be removed.

Mavromatis, tasked Feb. 5 with looking into a motorist’s complaint that the blue paint in front of the city building caused his Tesla to veer, said he’d been told it was “highly unlikely that it happened as described and if it did, it was through a system malfunction.”

“But the other part is can we have this (the blue and red lines) as a city and the answer is no,” he said, citing a U.S. Department of Transportation policy forbidding it.

“There was also a complaint filed” by someone, Mavromatis said. The phone number of the individual who filed the complaint is not working, he noted.

“Regardless of who reported it, we can’t have it there,” he said, adding he’d told authorities the lines would be removed at the city’s convenience.

Mavromatis also told council he’d spent four hours in a meeting on the opioid crisis with the attorney general and others who’d like all Ohio communities, including Steubenville, to join in legal proceedings against the manufacturers of prescription painkillers. The state has already filed suit, but “would like villages, townships and cities” to file suit, he said.

Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn reminded council the city’s park and recreation board meets at 7 p.m. today at Belleview Park. Headlining tonight’s agenda will be a Steubenville City Schools’ proposal to buy or lease Jim Wood Park.

District Superintendent Melinda Young came to council Dec. 17 to unveil a proposal to purchase or lease the park, but was told the information should have been submitted to the park board before approaching council.

After the presentation, board members will be able to “decide about community meetings” to discuss the proposal.

“It’s important that everybody knows that’s part of the plan, to have these meetings,” she added. “Nobody is going to be disenfranchised.”

Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna introduced a resolution authorizing the purchase of a property at 1435 Arlington Ave. from the Jefferson County Land Bank, while Paul sunshined an ordinance calling for necessary updates to be inserted in the city code.

Third and final reading of an ordinance authorizing the sale of property at 230 S. Sixth St. was approved. It will take effect March 12.

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