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Steubenville budget talks progressing

December 8, 2012
Weirton Daily Times


Staff writer

STEUBENVILLE -City administration officials will meet Monday morning with representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2015 to discuss cost savings and cost reduction ideas the union presented to City Council Tuesday night.

City Council and administration officials met for two and a half hours Friday evening to review the AFSCME suggestions and two senior council members reported some progress was made during the executive session.

"We discussed the thoughts and ideas we heard at the Tuesday council meeting and City Manager Cathy Davison will bring our thoughts back to the AFSCME union at the Monday meeting. We will then meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday in executive session to discuss the union response. We have until next Friday to introduce a final balanced budget for the council to vote on at the Dec. 18 regular meeting," explained Third Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf.

"We made a little progress today. We still have a way to go but we are now looking beyond the current budget to the issues in the 2013 and 2014 budgets," added Metcalf.

Brian Young, president of the AFSCME local union that represents city employees, provided council members with a proposal sheet he said could net $582,218 in proposed revenue and savings.

"We believe the elimination of car allowances will save $50,700, the elimination of part-time and seasonal workers will save an estimated $80,000 and an additional $7,200 could be saved with the elimination of cell phone and Internet for council members," Young told the council members Tuesday night.

He also proposed a $4 service fee for city utility bills that could raise $360,000 and the installation of parking meters to garner another $75,000.

Sixth Ward Councilman David Lalich who serves as the chairman of the council Finance Committee said the Friday night council session, "went well."

"There is a good possibility we will balance our year end budget. We are trying very hard. Our next step will be to see the results of the meeting with the AFSCME union. We will also start providing more clarity to people who raise issues or ask questions at our council meetings. We will give in-depth answers and give the real deal to residents who attend our council meetings," said Lalich.

Davison responded to several issues raised during the three-and-a-half hour council meeting Tuesday night, including plans for snow removal this winter.

"There will be snow removal this year in the city. It may not be the same as we have historically become accustomed to in past years. But street crews will be clearing and treating hills, emergency routes and main streets throughout the city. We be be operating in a very similar fashion as last year," said Davison.

"There were questions raised Tuesday night about sewer line work in McCauslen Manor. Yes there were two laterals attached to the same sewer line. But years ago the city apparently allowed the contractor who built homes in that neighborhood to connect the two laterals to one sewer line which is a violation. It was the city's fault because we allowed it to happen so we rectified the issue when James White repaired the broken sewer line. But the affected property owners were still financially responsible to pay for their share of the repairs," said Davison.

"Allegations were also raised about the city water line crew working in the Hollywood Shopping Center to locate a water line. The reason our crew did that work is because the property owner is considering giving the water line to the city. As part of our due diligence we wanted to make sure where that water line was located exactly," she continued.

"There were also comments made at the council meeting that the AFSCME members have not received a pay raise in the past four years. That is not the truth. Seven AFSCME members received a pay raise last year including several members of the union executive committee," stated Davison.

Davison said there are no plans at this point to meet with representatives of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

"We will not accept a new Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response grant so there is not much to discuss on that issue," Davison said.

Davison has said previously that three firefighters will be laid-off in March when the current SAFER grant expires.

She also said Friday night she plans to convene a joint health care committee meeting and ask Health America to list all benefits city employees receive and as well as a cost comparison to other municipalities.

"Right now our employees pay $50 a month or $600 a year for health care," noted Davison.

The three city union representatives voted against health care program changes last month.

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