WEIRTON - Weirton City Council nixed the purchase of scuba gear for the Weirton Fire Department at Monday's meeting, saying the money could be better used in other ways.
The measure was defeated by a 2-3 vote, with Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel and Ward 2's Chuck Wright casting the only votes in favor of the expenditure. Ward 6 Councilman David Dalrymple and Ward 1 Councilman Ronnie Jones were not at the meeting.
Wright defended the proposal, pointing out no one had expressed opposition to the purchase when they discussed it with department heads at a budget workshop.
Mayor George Kondik recognized groups and individuals at Monday’s Weirton City Council meeting who made significant contributions of their time, talents, cash or products to the Weirton Cares storm relief effort in November. Recognized were ArcelorMittal, Tri-State Pharmacy owner J.J. Bernabei, Marland Heights Community Association President Doug Jackson, Weir Middle School, St. Paul Pre-School, Dennis Allen, WEIR, Brooke County Rotary, Weirton Rotary and Colliers United Methodist Church. Kondik also singled out Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh, who helped spearhead the effort. -- Warren Scott
"If everybody was opposed to it at the time, they should have killed it at the budget workshop instead of going through (the bid process) and then shooting it down," Wright said, adding he didn't dispute council's right to vote against the measure, "but I thought we had an agreement" coming out of the workshop.
Weigel said the gear would cost roughly $15,000 and was "the last piece of the puzzle (for them) to do rescues all year round." He questioned whether it makes sense to stop short when the city already has invested so much.
"Do you go the last $15,000 so you can do it year-round when you've already invested nearly $200,000?" he asked.
"I don't have a vote, but if I did I would vote for it," Mayor George Kondik interjected. "Are we going to be in the (water rescue) business or not?"
Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh pointed out years ago his was one of two votes against the purchase of the rescue boat.
"You were one, I was the other," he told Ward 4 Councilman George Ash.
Ash, meanwhile, also questioned the slow pace of emergency repairs to the foundation of a home in his ward, complaining that neighbors were upset nothing had been done with the dirt excavated from the property, turned into a muddy mess by recent rains, and asking Chief Code Official Rod Rosnick what can be done to expedite the process.
"There ought to be some way to stop this," Ash said.
Rosnick, though, told Ash the property owner had contracted with an individual, not a company, for the foundation repairs, consequently the work was progressing slowly. Rosnick said he is monitoring the situation closely, but pointed out building permits currently allow property owners to take up to a year to finish a specific project; until and unless that's changed, the city's options are limited.
"It's our permits, when you purchase one you have a year (to finish the work)," Rosnick said, though adding, "I'm pushing him daily" to get done.
Kondik acknowledged it was a problem, saying the foundation of the home in question had collapsed. "All the dirt's (been excavated), but it's just sitting there," he said. "The project has not been completed."
In other business, Weirton Heights resident Stephen Gill presented council with a petition noting opposition to Department of Highway plans to create a large water retention pond in the area of North 18 St. and North 20 St. to capture and retain water runoff from the Pennsylvania Avenue widening project.
The petitioners said stagnant water can cause mosquito infestation as well as unpleasant odors, and would create an unsafe environment for children and decrease property values. They asked council to embrace other, environmentally sound options for disposing of the runoff.
After acknowledging the efforts of the Madonna football team, which fell in the Class A title game to Wahama, 43-42, in overtime, and the individuals who helped make the recent "Weirton Cares" storm relief effort successful, the meeting was interrupted by a 30-minute executive session. When they reconvened at 8:14, City Solicitor Vince Guerra said they'd discussed "reorganization of a couple departments within the city and possible resolution of a potential lawsuit."
Gurrera didn't elaborate, but City Manager Valerie Means said council's decision later in the meeting to pass first reading of an ordinance creating a new position, that of municipal court/legal analyst, was part of the discussion. The ordinance would establish a new minimum salary of $25,509.71 and a maximum salary of $27,704.46 for the new position, she said.
Council also approved the second reading of ordinances:
Revising rules and regulations for the city fire department.
Establishing "no parking" across from 3216 Weir Ave.
Establishing new minimum and maximum salaries for municipal employees in various departments, as well as for members of Weirton Municipal Employees Union, Fraternal Order of Police and members of the Weirton Firefighters Association.
Also heard were the first reading of resolutions authorizing:
City officials to enter into contract for consulting services for medical/blood-borne pathogen requirements.
Contributions to the Greater Weirton Senior Center to assign with its mortgage payment, and to the Weirton Boys & Girls Club.
Changes to the civil service commission code for fighters.
Purchase of replacement tools, a two-way radio system and a crew cab for the Public Works Department; as well as multi-gas meters and a sprinkler system for the fire department.
Council also signed off on an ordinance eliminating a handicapped parking space at 3729 Marlamont Way.
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)