STEUBENVILLE – It is likely that the first phases of repairs and upgrades to the Old Town Building will be funded from cash carryovers in the town.
Fifth Ward Councilman Willie Ball said Tuesday that they have enough carryover funds to cover the repairs, though he wants to limit Phase One spending by $500,000.
That would leave the last $1.4 million in US bailout funds intact, ostensibly to entertain even though no vote took place.
“We have money,” Paul said. “Leave ARPA money for recreation.”
Paul suggested targeting the highest priority projects – the evidence room, the creation of a locker room for the city’s female police officers and the upgrade of the bathrooms, particularly in the women’s restroom where the pipes in the wall are exposed.
“I think everything you mentioned is a need that we need to address,” said CFO Dave Lewis.
Municipal Judge John Maceo Jr. told the council that he was willing to release $30,000 from his Special Projects Fund to cover improvements to the Community Service Office.
“We had four rooms that we looked at,” Maceo said. “But the more I look at it and think about it…we don’t need to do anything at this point with the room behind my desk, or the probation desk[but]we have to do something with the community service office, we get more physical traffic and we have some programs where we need to.” to comply.”
Maceo said he could release the money to the city, by order of the court, and use it to improve community services, “And no additional use (for the bathrooms).”
“My suggestion is that we put a $500,000 cap on Phase One (which) would be this first floor,” General Councilwoman Kimberly Hahn said. “Some areas don’t need architectural and engineering drawings… What I’d like to do if we can do that is designate $1 million for the building—$500,000 for Phase One and a reserve of $500,000 for Phase Two.”
Hahn suggested that for now they should only do the architectural work for the first floor, but Section Three Councilwoman Heather Hoover questioned whether it made sense to do all the technical work first.
“It makes sense to me,” Hoover said. “When you get the work done on the house, you get an appreciation for the entire work. Why not do all the planning and engineering now?”
“I’m not willing to commit more than a million dollars to the project,” Han explained. “So, my idea would be if we do the engineering first, the architectural things that we have to do for this floor, we can make a decision to go ahead and then have them do the drawings for the upper floor, but then we can start projects here.”
“I understand, but I don’t like to split it up,” Frustrated, Hoover replied. “I can understand putting $500,000 downstairs and then moving upstairs. But I can’t get my head around why they can’t just go ahead and do all the planning at once, and then we have — we won’t come back here in a year and have the same conversation, saying ‘now We need planning” again. I’m just asking – get all the planning done for both floors and then commit $500,000 to the first floor.”
Maceo suggested that design work be done for both floors, before deciding how much they wanted to spend “And if you want to do it in two phases, that’s fine. You’re not circumventing public bidding by doing it in two phases because you only have the money now for one phase. That, to me, makes sense.”
Paul reminded the council that they would also need to find funds for a new roof at the downtown fire station.
“It’s a $100,000 project.” said Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi. “I can’t do anything else with the roof leaking, so I want to raise the roof first, and then go ahead we can do other projects.”
Also Tuesday, Steubenville Visitor Center executive director Judy Bratten said council tourism continues to have a huge impact on Jefferson County.
Bratten said in its annual report that the visitors “Contributed $129 million in direct impact in 2024 in Jefferson County” Visitor spending, visitor-supported jobs and business sales generated $29.9 million in government revenue. It said state and local taxes alone amounted to $14.5 million in 2024.
She said the visitor center went over budget on advertising and promotion in 2024 to take advantage of the renewed interest in travel and tourism, but they had enough money booked from previous years to cover the overrun.
“This year’s housing yields were lower than the previous year, even though our statistics showed a steady rate of visits,” Part of the explanation for the late revenue, she said, is due to changes in the local hotel and hotel landscape: The Super 8 made more than $40,000 a year in hotel and motel taxes before closing in 2020, leaving the city with three hotels and one bed-and-breakfast, with competition from The three hotels in Weirton.
“But the newest competition is the prevalence of airB&Bs in the city and region,” She said. “There are more than 20 of these – some with just one room to rent while others offer a floor or an entire house. None of these collect or pay housing tax. Nor are they as health and safety regulated as hotels and registered B&Bs. This is a problem. “All municipalities and counties are facing it and the Ohio Convention and Visitor Bureaus are trying to address it. I encourage the Council to look into it as well in order to protect the public and increase housing revenues.”
She told the council that they hope for housing returns in 2023 “It will be at least as much as last year.”
Meanwhile, the council voted against a proposed spending freeze of federal American Rescue Act funds remaining in the city.
Before the vote, Paul told 4th House Member Royal Mayo, who sponsored the legislation, that he could not vote for it.
“I respect what (you) want to do about this but…that money will be there,” Paul said. We will not touch this money. We will take the money for this building from another fund.”
Ward Senior Councilwoman Asantewa Anyapuel said saying the money will be there does not mean it will be.
“What is so difficult about allocating the rest of this money to parks and recreation?” She said. “Just put it aside, instead of just saying it will be there. If we’re really serious about our kids, we’re really serious about parks and recreation, why not put the money aside?”
Hoover said she would like to set aside the money for parks and recreation, but noted that they don’t have enough money to cover parks director Lori Featherulf’s list of needs.
“Let’s decide which projects we want to move forward with,” She said. “I’m in order to fund a couple of projects and then see where we are. You can’t allocate all the money because you don’t know what obstacles you will face.”
Sixth Ward Councilmembers Mike Hernon and Second Ward Councilman Tracy McManamon also made it clear that they did not like the ARPA spending freeze.
“There was no conversation, I guess that’s what we should be having,” Hernon said. “We need simple agreements for one or two or three projects and go from there.”
McManamon said he “(I didn’t) think it was a very wise way to run a business.”
“I would never agree to do entertainment in one part of town,” He said.
In other business, the Council:
• Deny Troy Drive zoning change.
The owner, John Polverini, has proposed rezoning it from a medium-density (R-2A) residential area to a high-density (R-3) residential area to allow for transitional housing for up to 11 homeless veterans. The Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended approval, despite opposition from neighboring property owners – two of whom appeared at a council meeting to urge a “no” vote.
Resident Dave Coldonato said the Troy Drive community didn’t like the idea at all.
“We do agree that there is some need for housing to assist veterans, and we don’t feel it should be in our area,” he said. “It’s a dead-end street where children live and visit old women who live alone,” Coldonato said “Who would be so nervous.”
“The road has not been improved… The property has been vacant for 17 years and they have done nothing with it. The person who owns the property now has owned it for two years and has done nothing with it,” He said.
Another neighbour, Paul Cooper, added to the council that it was the site, rather than the project that had caused such a stir in the neighbourhood “The guy had it for two years and didn’t do anything with it.”
The division change was rejected by a vote of 7-0.
• Signed in final reading of an ordinance authorizing City Manager Jim Mavromatis to transfer two lots on South Street to the Jefferson County Port Authority to effect its sale to Schnierlin and Seliger.
• Approved emergency legislation authorizing Mavromatis and Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi to seek proposals for professional/consulting services under Ohio Administrative Services’ Community Housing Impact and Maintenance Program; and authorizing the city to apply for the Appalachian Regional Commission on Opportunity and Workforce Partnerships and Economic Revitalization Grant.