STEUBENVILLE — After listening to their department heads talk for two hours about their nuts-and-bolts funding needs Monday, council and city administrators weighed in on their spending priorities for the $12.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds that haven’t already been earmarked.
The three-hour work session was meant to help council formulate a strategy for making the best possible use of the federal dollars.
They’ve already spent $745,000 on the Lincoln Boulevard sewer project, which was an emergency repair; $424,000 to buy and equip another ambulance; roughly $231,000 for new police and fire radios, and $210,000 for employee premium pay.
Department heads reminded council they have millions of dollars in spending needs — some to satisfy consent decrees, others to prevent potential catastrophes.
Water Superintendent Jim Jenkins said he’d requested $5 million for the West End water project, pointing out he’d tried to secure grant money but was turned down. The more money the department has to borrow for the project, “the higher the debt service for the citizens of Steubenville,” he said.
“You guys are going to make the decisions,” he said. “I would love to have the $5 million and reduced the debt service for the citizens of Steubenville. When we put a new water line in the ground, it’s not readily seen (but) it’s the future of the city. To have a great city, you’ve got to have great infrastructure.”
Jenkins said he also nominated more than $28 million in projects for Ohio Environmental Protection Agency loans…“to get them on their radar,” so eliminating debt service is a good thing.
Utilities Director Chuck Murphy said he needs funds for Phase III of the CSO2 project, which will reduce the amount of overflow going into the river.
“It will reduce the amount of overflows going into the river, a mixture of rainwater and sewage,” Murphy said. “It’s required by OEPA and our wastewater permit and the second amended consent order.”
Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi said he’d like $200,000 in local matching funds for the $2 million downtown streetscape project, which address the core area of the business district–Washington to Market Streets — with new sidewalks, historic lampposts, underground conduits and crosswalks.
He also discussed establishing a community improvement council that would work in tandem with the Jefferson County Port Authority and Jefferson County Land Bank, and urged council not to forget about broadband
Recreation Director Lori Fetherolf gave council her wish list, in order of importance: Beatty Park bridge, estimated at $500,000; Belleview Park baseball field lights, $450,000; MLK improvements, $256,000; dugouts at Field 3 and Jim Wood Park, $260,000; contribution to inclusive playground, $100,000; dump truck, $75,000.
She questioned whether it would make more sense to allocate the ARPA money toward the higher priced water and sewer projects and borrow money for the lower-priced park projects, which could be paid off faster.
“I realize there’s not enough money to go around, but my department has been gutted for years,” she said. “My two biggest projects, the lights at Belleview and the bridge, my department will never have money for those two projects (on its own).”
Fourth Ward Councilman Royal Mayor suggested selling naming rights to park attractions, while 6th Ward Councilman Michael Hernon said it behooves council to “make sure as we do this, we talk about what we do and how we can do it to leverage these moneys.”
City Engineer Mike Dolak told council that he’s going to need a lot of money for street improvements — roughly $500,000 for Johnson Road, $163,000 for St. Charles Drive, another $595,000 for Wellesley Avenue, $731,000 for Sinclair Avenue and $7 million for John Scott Connector.
Rather than build an all-new court building, Municipal Judge John Mascio said it makes more sense — and would be more cost effective — to repair the space he currently occupies. He’s asking for a $750,000 commitment.
“It’s pretty obvious there’s a lot of room for improvement throughout this complex,” he said. “I think the money would be better spent putting money into the existing facility right here. The best bang for our buck is simply putting money back into this complex. There’s an enormous amount of space, two usable levels.
“I think if you put money into these offices, it would all be utilized by police, the council and this court,” he said.