Council readies search for city manager

STEUBENVILLE – The clock is now ticking as City Council members take the first steps to search for a new city manager.

Third Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf said Tuesday the 120-day search timetable spelled out in the city charter means a new manager will have to be hired by Sept. 14.

“We need to establish a timetable for how we will proceed with the advertisements in local and national publications and we need to discuss if we want to establish a citizens’ committee like we did last time. And we will have two new council members taking office in January, and I think we should have them in the interview process,” Metcalf said.

Second Ward Councilman Rick Perkins agreed with the idea of a citizens’ committee to review the manager applicants but not involving Mike Johnson and Bob Villamagna as part of the interview process. “They are the Democratic nominees for the council at this point. I don’t think they can be part of our discussions but they can be appointed to the citizens committee,” Perkins said.

Sixth Ward Councilman David Lalich questioned how the city can offer the city manager job to the chosen applicant, “when the charter review commission won’t be finished. What if a petition is started to eliminate the charter and return to the mayor form of government? I’m trying to look ahead.”

“We have to finish one thing. We will have to hire a city manager and go forward. The charter review commission won’t have its work finished by this November,” responded 5th Ward Councilman Willie Paul.

And Mayor Domenick Mucci repeated the charter review commission will be charged with reviewing the charter.

“Any move to change our form of government will need to come in the form of a petition and would eventually be decided by a vote of our citizens,” said Mucci.

Council members must submit names for a citizens’ review committee for the city manager search by June 18.

Council approved an ordinance accepting former City Manager Cathy Davison’s resignation she submitted last week and approved a $41,097.71 severance package.

Finance Director Alyssa Kerker said the severance package numbers were revised, “because three vacation days had been paid as part of the regular paycheck.”

The recreation committee also agreed to table two ordinances that establish a working agreement with the Community for Youth Development and the LaBelle Neighbors Who Care organization.

The two nonprofit groups hope to oversee operations at the Belleview Pool this summer.

City Law Director S. Gary Repella said he and Kerker will meet with representatives from the two groups to finalize details before the formal agreements are approved by City Council.

In other matters, Bishop John King Mussio Elementary School was recognized during the council meeting for finishing first in Ohio and fourth in the nation during a recent online math competition.

Also, council passed emergency legislation for the demolition of the house at 243 N. Eighth St.

Members also approved an emergency ordinance to advertise for bids for an asbestos abatement project at the Grand Theater.

In other business:

Council heard a first reading for an ordinance rezoning the former synagogue on Lovers Lane that is being converted into a senior citizen center by Tri-State Health Services.

Kristopher Haught, an attorney representing Ahmed Alwishah, asked council to consider sponsoring his client’s request for an economic development project at the University Boulevard BP gas station.

“Mr. Alwishah has been operating that station since March and would like to sell wine and beer at the store. He believes it will benefit him as well as the city. He will still have to go through the normal application process with the Ohio Liquor Control Board,” explained Haught.

“He currently operates a gas station in Hancock County and another gas station in Weirton and is a responsible business owner,” added Haught.

The council voted unanimously earlier this month to oppose a request from the Ohio Department of Liquor Control for a transfer exempt permit application for an economic development project from Joe Wayne Bush in Middletown to the University Boulevard Express.

Council also heard from Robert Villamagna who won the May Democratic primary for the 6th Ward council seat who questioned why the new city building doesn’t have a lobby receptionist.

“Three times I have been there and each time people are trying to reach someone in their office because no one is at the front desk,” said Villamagna.

“That issue is being explored and will be addressed at a future date,” said Mucci.

Lalich announced T-shirts from Nelson Fine Arts and Gifts will be distributed this week to graduates from Catholic Central High School and Steubenville High School.

“The T-shirts proclaim, ‘You always have a home in Steubenville’ and I hope this annual tradition continues by future city councils,” said Lalich.

Lalich announced the finance committee will meet in executive session at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the city’s finances. The council utility committee will meet at 6 p.m. to discuss the former city landfill.

Councilman at large Kenny Davis said the Save the Pool drawing will be moved from June 1 to June 30 to coincide with the Stars and Stripes Concert and Festival, “because ticket sales are a little slow. But we still have a goal of opening the pool by the first week of June.”

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Angela Suggs lauded the Steubenville Revitalization Group for its campaign to dress up the downtown area.

“I would like to acknowledge Jerry Barilla and Judy Bratten and the organization for purchasing new trash containers for the front of the city building, partnering with the Kiwanis Club for improving Pocket Park on Market Street, hanging flower baskets and putting up new flags in the downtown,” stated Suggs.