City of Martins Ferry

Martins Ferry City Council Meeting Minutes of March 1, 2023

Posted on: March 16, 2023

The Martins Ferry City Council met in Regular Session on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at 6:00 p.m., at the Donald Myers Council Chambers.  The meeting was called to order by Council President Pro-Tempore Rick Rodgers with the Pledge of Allegiance recited by those present in chamber, followed by a prayer by the Clerk.   Answering Roll Call were Bob Hunker, First Ward Council Member, Bruce Shrodes, Second Ward Council Member; Suzanne Armstrong, Third Ward Council Member and Rick Rodgers, Fourth Ward Council Member.    President Kristine Davis, Council-at-Large Members Tom Burns and Jim Schramm were unable to attend this meeting.  Mr. Rodgers reserved his right to vote.   

            Council agreed to change the order of the meeting to permit Mr. Phil Wallace, of the Democratic Central Committee, to speak.  Mr. Wallace announced that Rev. James Agnew was chosen to fill the Council-at-Large position that was recently vacated by Jack Regis, Sr.  He explained that an elected official can hold two positions in a city with a few stipulations.  Rev. Agnew, who is also a Martins Ferry School Board Member, was then sworn into office by Mayor Davies. 

            Mr. Rodgers announced that Mr. Hunker will serve as Chairperson of the Finance Committee and Mr. Schramm will fill the vacancy on the Finance Committee for the remainder of this year.   He also encouraged Council to pass the Resolution urging the Governor and Ohio General Assembly to restore the Local Government Fund to Pre-Recession levels. 

            Minutes:  Minutes of the February 15, 2023 Council Meeting were approved as written.  

Correspondence:  There was no correspondence. 

Reports of Officers of the City:

Mayor:  Last weekend a pipe burst at the Water Plant.  Crews worked 18 hours straight to re-configure the plumbing and fix the break.

A city-wide clean-up day may be scheduled at the end of April.  A garbage packer is currently being repaired.  Workers have been picking up garbage in dump trucks.

The Mayor distributed the most recent testing report from the EPA on the city’s water.  Results were still non-detectable.  The water will continue to be monitored daily and tested frequently. 

New filters have been ordered for the Recreation Center Pool to hopefully solve the water pressure issue. 

Cameras have been ordered for the EMS building.  Most of the cameras will be focused on the ambulances in the garage.  The Safety Director explained this is an added security measure since there are drugs stored on the emergency vehicles.  Cost of the Cameras is $10,429.61 and will be paid out of the EMS Fund.  There will also be camera equipment installed in the Mayor’s Office so he will be able to monitor different work sites.  Cost for this equipment is $3,286.99 and will be taken from the Mayor’s Technology Fund.

The Street Sweeper has been running in town occasionally and will start a full schedule shortly.

Service Director:  Mr. Sutak reported the free skate last Sunday went well with over 100 kids attending.  The next skating event will cost $1 for admission with proceeds going to help with continued improvements to the Center. 

Mr. Sutak met with a representative from the USDA for the City’s 4 year inspection of property, equipment, and paperwork.  Everything went well.  During this meeting, Mr. Sutak was informed of a 1% loan that could help with the rehabbing of some homes within the city.  He will do more research into this matter. 

Mr. Sutak has received quotes on the cost of borrowing different amounts of money in order to demolish more dilapidated homes in the city.  He will research ways for the city to acquire properties through land reutilization.  The Auditor and Finance Committee will be consulted to formulate a plan which will then be presented to Council. 

Safety Director:  Director Regis was notified that the $10,000 grant, from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, was approved to help pay for a new side-by-side utility vehicle for the Fire Department. 

Director Regis explained new guidelines that severely changes the way EMS and Fire Training is conducted in the State of Ohio.  The new training methods will be expensive for the department and may not be convenient for many volunteers.   Council was asked to pass a Resolution in opposition to these new methods of training. 

An old box ambulance will be sold to the Wheeling Police Department to haul their drones and surveillance equipment. 

Mr. Regis asked Council if they would donate the old PA system, microphones and stands to the Fire Department. 

            Auditor:  Auditor Regis is hoping to have a budget to Council by March 15 to review.  A special Council Meeting may have to be called to approve the budget.  Auditor Regis is meeting with a representative from RITA to get some questions answered and determine how the city might be able to collect delinquent taxes.  A new copier is being leased with a savings of over $100 per month.  Auditor Regis also reviewed the new hire report which will be filed with these minutes.    

            Law Director:  No report. 

            Police Department:  No report.

            Fire Department: No report.

Code Administrator: No report.

            Park District: No report.      

            Water Department:  No report.       

Reports of Committees of Council:   

            Finance and Audit:   The Finance Committee met on February 28, 2023, to discuss the 2023 Budget shortfall in the General Fund, including future retirements that are forthcoming this year which will impact the Fund significantly.  Options to balance the budget were discussed but there are no recommendations at this time.  Additional meetings will be held in the near future.

Street: No report.

Ordinance:  No report.

            Sewer/Sidewalk:  No report.

Code Administration:  No report.

            Safety: No report.

            Service: The Service Committee met on February 22, 2023, with Larry Merry, Director of the Belmont County Port Authority.  Port Authority Grants and meeting schedules were discussed.  It was decided to have someone from the City’s Administration attend their meetings to be better informed of the Port Authority’s operations. 

Cemetery:  No report.

Public Relations:  No report.

Real Estate/Utility:  No report.

Income Tax: No report.

Citizens To Be Heard:  President Pro-Tempore Rodgers reminded citizens to limit their speaking to 5 minutes.  

            Rob Reed, 701 North Lincoln Street, Bridgeport, a member of CORR (Concerned Ohio River Residents) spoke on the Ohio Department of Health investigation of radioactive contamination in the public domain dated 8/30/2022 and expressed CORR’s continued concerns.  Mr. Reed supplied Council Members with a copy of his speech which will be included with these minutes.

            Beverly Reed, 98-5th. Street, Bridgeport, Ohio, continued with the rest of her father’s written speech since his 5 minute allotted time had expired.  She states that trains and trucks, carry hazardous waste, traveling through the Ohio Valley communities, do not display hazardous symbol signs.  Ms. Reed urged Council to address the issues raised by CORR as noted in her father’s speech. 

            Sherry Sambuco, Colerain, Ohio, explained to Council that she lives on private property and is trying to get city water.  Five of her neighbors have well water and one family has no water.  There is also not a fire hydrant in the area.  Mr. Stecker said the city would have to seek Eminent Domain to install a water line since one property owner will not allow a water line to pass through her property.  Mr. Stecker suggested Ms. Sambuco and her neighbors meet with the Utility Committee to discuss options and cost of this endeavor. 

Richard Hord, 915 Virginia Street, asked what the city seeks to gain from the meeting with Larry Merry and was told by Mr. Shrodes that the city hopes to have better communication between the Port Authority and the city’s administration.  The Staffilino property is not for sale.  The owner wants to open a business at the location.  Council has not made a decision on the Health Right matching grant.  Mr. Sutak will contact Columbia Gas to see if there is a schedule on when and where they will be doing work on the line replacements.  When asked about the sale of the former Curley property, the Mayor said after the property’s value is determined, it will go to bid.

Ordinances and Resolutions:          

      A Resolution Strongly Urging The Ohio Governor And Members Of The Ohio General Assembly To Restore The Local Government Fund To Pre-Recession Levels

Mr. Sutak gave some background information to Council on this Resolution.  Mr. Shrodes made a motion to amend the spelling of “Governmeny” to “Government” in the Resolution.  Motion was seconded by Mrs. Armstrong.  A roll call vote was heard with Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Agnew and Hunker voting yes.  The motion carried.  Mr. Shrodes made a motion to pass the Resolution as corrected.  Motion was seconded by Mrs. Armstrong.    A roll call vote was heard with Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Agnew and Hunker voting yes.   Mr. Shrodes made a motion to pass the Resolution as read.  Mr. Hunker seconded the motion.  A roll call vote was heard with Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Agnew and Hunker voting yes.






Miscellaneous Business:   

Mr. Hunker made a motion to excuse Mr. Schramm and Mr. Burns from tonight’s meeting.  Mrs. Armstrong seconded the motion.  After an affirmative voice vote, the motion passed.  

Mr. Shrodes made a motion to reflect Council has received reports from the Officers and Management, and to incorporate these reports into the minutes.  Motion was seconded by Mr. Hunker.   After an affirmative voice vote, the motion passed.  

            The Mayor reported that back taxes are owed on the property at 615 Walnut Street.  There are also several other properties in the city that back taxes are owed.  The Mayor asked Council how they would like to proceed with these properties.  Mr. Hunker recommended contacting the County Treasurer and let the County foreclose on the property.  The process is very time-consuming.  Mr. Sutak will also contact the Land Bank which might accelerate the foreclosure of 615 Walnut Street if there is a buyer waiting to purchase the property after the home is demolished. 

Mr. Hunker made a motion to accept the list of new hires for February 2023 as submitted by the Auditor.  Rev. Agnew seconded the motion.  New Hires include: Janet E. Astle, Tyler Lovey, and Deborah McAnninch.   These new hires work part-time for the EMS.  A roll call vote was heard with Hunker, Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers and Agnew voting yes.  The motion carried. 

             Mrs. Armstrong moved to adjourn, which was seconded by Mr. Hunker.  After an affirmative voice vote, the meeting was adjourned with a salute to the flag.

            The next meeting of the Martins Ferry City Council will be on Wednesday, March 15, 2023 at 6:00 in Council Chambers. 

___________________________________                           ___________________________    
Kay H. McFarlan, Clerk of Council                                        Kristine Davis, Council President