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Council Meets In Emergency Session

November 2, 2018

New Martinsville City Council held a special meeting on Oct. 29 for discussion on the ongoing sewer issue on Neubauer Drive, in the Steelton section of the City. City Recorder Kim Whiteman called the meeting to order at 2:30 p.m. and then advised the council there had been a gas line break in the area. She said it is near to, and threatening, a major waterline. She said the city needs to take immediate action to repair the problems and must do so in the safest way.

Chairman of the Street, Sewage, and Water committee, Steve Pallisco, spoke about the storm sewer line being completely blocked off in several areas. Pallisco said the city had received bids on performing the work from a couple contractors, but the bids were too high, and the city can't afford to hire. He suggested the city do the work itself, which would save quite a bit of money. He said the estimates ranged from over $100,000 to $300,000.

Pallisco said he believes the city will be able to do the job and do it right. Whiteman continued to stress it must be done safely first. She said the city could not take any chances of getting someone hurt, or worse. Pallisco and the council all agreed it must be a "safety first" project. Street Superintendent Gary Willey stated the city has four trucks that workers can use to haul dirt, gravel and remove the debris. He felt the job could be completed in a week, unless there is bad weather.

Discussion on the project centered around finishing the project safely, correctly, and quickly. Council also had concerns whether the city had the equipment and manpower to complete the job. Pallisco assured council he has been working hard with Gary Willey and his crew to find a solution to the problem. He repeated the city cannot afford to contract the job and is confident Willey and his men will complete the job safely and correctly.

Willey also mentioned that Electric Superintendent Dave White agreed to loan the street department two men to help with the project. Willey said the job would involve digging, removing the old busted pipe, and replacing it with new pipe. Creek gravel would be used to fill in the area around the pipe.

The projected cost to do the job in-house was estimated $30,000. The pipe is to be replaced from man hole to man hole.

Willey and Pallisco both stated paving of the repaired area would have to wait until asphalt is available and the fill area has settled. They believe it will probably be spring before asphalt is available. Also, it was suggested to screen the ends, to prevent large debris from entering the manholes.

On a motion by Councilman Joe Smith and seconded by Councilman Joel Potts, council unanimously approved $30,000 for the repairs. Work was to begin immediately, weather permitting.

Also on Monday, at 3:30 p.m., council held a finance committee meeting. The meeting was open to the public for discussion and chaired by councilwoman Iris Isaacs. On the agenda was "Discussion of getting estimates from Enterprise for the replacement of department vehicles." Among the vehicles discussed were those belonging to the Parks and Recreation Department, Street Department, Police Department -- among other equipment that is in need of replacement, due to age and condition. The estimates are for purchasing used vehicles from Enterprise.

Discussion was also held on department salary increases for Parks and Recreation Director Bev Gibb, and her assistant. Other increases proposed were for the street commissioner, among others. Total salary increases of $25,000 was discussed. It was mentioned the police chief and fire chief could also use a raise too.

On the agenda was the municipal fee. Council discussed the need to raise the municipal fee in order to provide residents with better services such as street paving, equipment, police, and other needed services. The current fee is $7.50 per month. Finance Chairman Isaacs stated that with 2,553 people paying the municipal fee, it only brings in $255,000 per year, and doubling the fee would only add the same amount. It was suggested an increase of $5, which would be split three ways -- streets, storm sewers, and equipment replacement.

Also on the agenda was adding a user fee. Council discussed a city service fee, which would be a tax on every person who works in the city. According to council, many people who work in the city get free services -- such as water, snow plowing, and fire and police protection, without paying for those services. They cited areas such as Thomas Addition and Beechwood Estates.

Councilman Joe Smith said the fire department has a lot of needs and many are a wish list, but the department needs a line item of $7,500 per year to replace three sets of gear. He said he would like to see the Steelton Fire Department relocated due to space limitations. He also said the Ohio Street station has a leaking roof and needs a line item in the budget. The necessary replacement of pumps was also mentioned. It was noted many of these needs have been neglected for years.

Councilman Potts said the city will need to do something to bring in more money, or else it would be bankrupt. It was decided to have another special meeting on Monday, Nov. 5 at 5:30 p.m., right before the next regular council meeting, to further discuss the fee increases. Potts said he believes the city is losing a lot of employees to other jobs. He said policemen can walk across the street and get a raise, better benefits, and a new car to drive.

The committee also suggested residents would understand the need for the increases and fees, if they understood the needs of the city.



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