Council debates placement of flags for relay

FOLLANSBEE – Follansbee officials on Monday debated the pros and cons of displaying flags promoting the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

Not because they don’t support the event, which will be held June 1-2 at Follansbee Middle School’s football field, but because there are concerns about setting a precedent.

Dave Secrist, chairman of the Brooke-Hancock Relay for Life, asked council to participate in Paint the Northern Panhandle Purple, a campaign encouraging local municipalities to promote their upcoming Relays for Life by displaying purple banners and ribbons along streets and in public places.

Relays for Life are yearly events held by the American Cancer Society around the world to raise funds for cancer research, prevention, education and patient services. Purple and white are the organizaton’s official colors.

Secrist said Paint the Northern Panhandle Purple is an extension of the Paint the Town Purple campaign launched in Brooke County last year to promote the local relay.

Third Ward Councilwoman Kathy Santoro noted the city purchased about 50 Relay for Life banners last year but didn’t display them while neighboring cities did.

City Manager John DeStefano said there were concerns that displaying the relay flags would open the city to similar groups from other groups council may not support.

City Attorney Michael Gaudio told council, “Once you do it, you’re pretty much obligated to other groups. You can’t say who you like and don’t like.”

Santoro said to date the city has received such requests from two groups, the American Cancer Society and the LymeLight Foundation, whose cause is Lyme disease. She added the city should promote the Relay for Life since it’s being moved this year to Follansbee.

Second Ward Councilman Tom DiBattista said he shares the same concerns as Gaudio, but the city should show its support for the event and since council purchased the banners, it should use them.

City officials had made plans last week to make the flags available to local businesses and groups interseted in displaying them.

DiBattista suggested future groups should be required to pay for such flags and for them to be posted.

Council moved to display the Relay for Life banners on streetlights on Main Street (state Route 2) between Allegheny and State streets from May 13 to June 2 and to require future groups to pay for flags posted in such a way.

There also was discussion of limiting the period of time to two weeks and establishing a limit on the size.

Council also agreed to post signs advising large trucks are prohibited from turning onto Penn Street, Mark Avenue and other streets, as needed, in residential areas.

Mayor David Velegol Jr. said officials with Wheeling-Nisshin requested a sign for Penn Street, saying large trucks turning onto it had become a problem. While the steel firm’s main headquarters is on the street, the street itself is short and leads to a narrow alley running along the plant’s site.

Several years ago, Veterans Drive was established at the city’s north end for trucks traveling to Wheeling-Nisshin and other steel firms in the city.

But DeStefano said the industrial access road can’t be identified with the Global Positioning System and many web-based maps. He said large trucks also have inadvertently turned onto Mark Avenue and other residential streets off Route 2.

DeStefano suggested if a sign is posted at Penn Street, others should be posted elsewhere. But he said the real problem is the visibility of the sign at Veterans Drive.

Also on Monday:

Velegol joined Paul DiGiacinto, a Follansbee firefighter who coordinates the city fire department’s Christmas canned good collection, in recognizing the local Riesbeck’s Food Store for encouraging customers to purchase pre-bagged groceries for donation to the Anderson Children’s Home.

DiGiacinto said with the help of Store Director Bruce Dunn, 110 bags were purchased for $5 or $10 each last Christmas. He added the business also has supported Follansbee Community Days since it opened several years ago.

The two also recognized the local McDonald’s and its owner Karen Mezan, noting the restaurant’s community support over the last 25 years has included providing free food to firefighters responding to fires and floods and various hours.

City Fire Chief Rea said a garage at a residence on Walnut Street collapsed Monday evening. He said no one was hurt and he has ordered for the building to be removed.

Council authorized DeStefano and Public Works Director Steve Meca to conduct the city’s annual spring cleanup at a date to be announced in the near future.