City of Martins Ferry

Martins Ferry City Council Meeting Minutes of May 17, 2023

Posted on: August 3, 2023

The Martins Ferry City Council met in Regular Session on Wednesday, May 17, 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; Rick Rodgers, Fourth Ward Council Member; Tom Burns, James Agnew, and Jim Schramm, Council at Large Members.  Mr. Rodgers reserved his right to vote.   

            Minutes:  Minutes of the May 3, 2023 Council Meeting were approved as written.  

Correspondence:  There was no correspondence. 

Reports of Officers of the City:

Mayor:  Mayor Davies reported the Street Sweeper is currently operating.  Citations will be given to vehicles parked illegally even if the Sweeper does not run that day.  The new Packer, ordered 2 ½ years ago, is ready.  The Mayor and Service Director will meet with the supplier and talk about funding options. 

Seasonal Workers are being used to cut grass on abandoned properties not owned by the city.  Tickets are being issued to property owners with grass over 12 inches high.  No exceptions.  Tickets will not be voided. The cemetery grass has been cut and is looking good. 

New pumps and a controller have been installed at the swimming pool so it can be opened in a timely manner. 

Donations have been received for the July 1st Celebration in the Park.  This will be an all-day event which includes free swimming, music, food trucks, craft vendors and ending with fireworks at dusk.  Mr. Sutak asked that this event be advertised in The Times Leader

The Strawberry Festival will be held on Saturday, June 3.  The Mayor announced the streets that would be closed during the Festival. 

Street Crews are currently filling potholes.  The City Clean-Up Event on May 6th went well. 

The Mayor and Service Director are meeting with a few businesses to help them facilitate moving to the city. 

Mayor Davies asked Council to prepare a list of streets they would like paved.  Bids can then be secured and the streets can be paved before the weather turns cold.  The number of streets paved will depend on how much the budget can accommodate. 

Columbia Gas has patched South Zane Highway but it is still has rough spots.  The Mayor told the Project’s Supervisor that there were no bumps or potholes in the road before the gas lines were replaced and that’s the way it needs to be when the gas company is finished. 

The Mayor summarized the details of the new EMS contract.  As soon as it is written up, he will get it to Council.  They requested that EMS not pay for a dispatcher and instead use 911.

Service Director:  Mr. Sutak will continue to look for match funding for Capital Projects.  He will research the ODNR matching grants which the city would have to pay 25% of the project cost.

It is hoped that the July 1st Celebration in the Park will bring people from across the Valley to the city. 

Safety Director:  No report.

            Auditor:  Auditor Regis asked Council to carefully consider the elimination of the EMS Dispatcher position and let him know as soon as possible their decision.

            An Auditor’s Report regarding the General Fund was distributed and highlights of the cost saving measures being taken by the city were reviewed by Mr. Regis.   

            Law Director: At the last Street Committee Meeting, Mr. Stecker was asked to draft a letter to the Ohio Department of Transportation to request their assistance with some of the repairs that are needed to St. Rt. 647.  The letter will need to be signed by every Council Member. 

            Police Department:  Interim Police Chief Jerry Murphy reported that two cruisers, under a lease program with Enterprise, are scheduled to be returned.  Officer Murphy is also negotiating to release another vehicle from its lease with Enterprise.  These cruisers will be stripped of equipment which can then be sold at the City’s Auction.  A report was given of police call activities.  The Police Department has received a grant to purchase 6 laptop computers.  Total cost of the laptops and hardware is $25,188, which needs to be paid upfront.  The grant would then reimburse the city $18,891which is 75% of the cost.  The remaining 25% of this purchase would need to come from city funds.  Officer Murphy asked for Council’s permission to move forward with this purchase.  A matching 75%/25% grant has been awarded to the Department for body cameras.   Negotiations for a 5-year contract with the Axon Company, distributor of the cameras, is currently underway. 

            Fire Department: No report.

Code Administrator: No report.

            Park District: No report.      

            Water Department:  No report.       

Reports of Committees of Council:   

            Finance and Audit:   A Finance Committee was held on May 10th.  In addition to the report Auditor Regis gave, Mr. Hunker informed Council that there is an 8% increase in Health Insurance cost for city employees.  This will need to be discussed at the next Finance Committee Meeting which was scheduled for Friday, May 26 at 10:00 a.m.

Street: Mr. Deguzzo, a lawyer with North West Title, informed the Committee that there was no documentation of the State of Ohio turning over St. Rt. 647 to the City.  Because Martins Ferry is a city with a population over 5,000, according to Ohio Revised Code, the city is responsible for the maintenance of the road.  However, as Mr. Stecker noted, the city will ask ODOT for help with the repairs needed for the road. 

A Street Committee Meeting was set for Monday, June 5th at 10:00 a.m. in Council Chambers.  Mr. Rodgers asked every Council Member to prepare a list of streets in their Ward that need paved.  He asked that they summit the list to him before the June 5th meeting. 

Ordinance:  No report.

            Sewer/Sidewalk:  No report.

Code Administration:  No report.

            Safety: No report.

            Service:  No report.

            Cemetery:  The Committee met on May 10th for a short meeting.  Mr. Burns spoke to a worker at the cemetery and was assured that the property would be in good shape for Memorial Day.  Maintenance such as pothole repairs and gravestone re-sets are being done as time permits. 

Public Relations:  No report.

Real Estate/Utility:  No report.

Income Tax: No report.

Citizens To Be Heard:  Mr. Rodgers reminded citizens to limit their speaking to 5 minutes.

             William Graff, 514 North 8th Street, is concerned about a wall that was built in 1997 behind his house by city workers.  The wall was not constructed properly and is now pushing out into his yard.  He is afraid it will get close to his foundation and damage his house.  Mr. Graff also alerted city officials to a couple of tall trees in the cemetery that cracked during a recent storm that may fall on his house.  Mr. Shrodes said the Service Committee will address these issues. 

            Frank Capini, President of the United Steel Workers, St. Clairsville, Ohio, inquired about the matching grant for Health Right and asked Council to inform Health Right as soon as possible of their decision.  He also announced the Martins Ferry Elks will have a Community Day in the Park on June 17th, 12:00-4:00 p.m. with rides, swimming, games and food for the citizens.  He also asked the city for an electrical hook-up at the Strawberry Festival for their popcorn machine and pop dispenser. 

            Richard Hord, 915 Virginia Street, thanked the administration for the pothole patching done on the city streets.  Mr. Hord was told an Ordinance would be read later in the meeting regarding the sale of the former Curly property.  The Martins Ferry Historical Society has not been funded by the Betty Zane Day proceeds since the Fire Department took over the event.  Currently the Historical Society’s biggest source of income is through donations and membership dues.  The city does not financially support the Society.  The Mayor said hopefully by the middle of June the Police Chief position can be advertised.  There was no information available regarding the former Staffilino property. 

            Paul Stecker, 1200 Indiana Street, announced that Project Forward is sponsoring a 10 week Program beginning at the end of May for any entrepreneur interested in starting a business in Martins Ferry.  Program cost is being covered by a grant. 

Ordinances and Resolutions:  

            An Ordinance Authorizing The Director of Public Service To Advertise For Bids For The Sale Of Municipal Property And To Sell The Property To The Winning Bids.

Motion was made by Mr. Hunker to suspend the rules.  Motion was seconded by Mr. Schramm.  A roll call vote was heard with Hunker, Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Burns, Agnew and Schramm voting yes.  The motion carried.   Motion was made by Mr. Schramm to pass the Ordinance as read.  Mr. Shrodes seconded the motion.  A roll call vote was heard with Schramm, Hunker, Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Burns, and Agnew voting yes.  The motion carried and the Ordinance was passed.  Mr. Sutak will advertise these properties in The Times Leader.






Miscellaneous Business:   

Council received a notice from American Electric Power (Ohio) regarding an impending increase in customer’s electric bills and explained the issue of electric aggregation.  Mr. Shrodes made a motion to note in the minutes that Council is against Aggregates.  Mrs. Armstrong seconded the motion.  A roll call vote was heard with Shrodes, Armstrong, Rodgers, Burns, Agnew, Schramm, and Hunker voting yes.  The motion carried.

Mr. Shrodes asked for help in putting flags on veteran’s graves on Saturday, May 20 beginning at 8:00 a.m. at the Riverview Cemetery.  He also expressed his displeasure with the city having to cut grass on abandoned lots because property owners are not held accountable for high grass and trash piling up in their yards.  A 6-minute discussion was held regarding problems with neglected properties. The Mayor said 7 tickets were written today, 5 of which were in Mr. Shrodes’ Ward.  Many properties are rentals and the landlords are not in the local area. 

Mr. Stecker will research to see if the Police Department Laptops could be paid from the Permanent Improvement Fund which would then be reimbursed 75% (or $18,891) of the cost when the grant money was received.    

Mr. Schramm 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 Rev. Agnew.   After an affirmative voice vote, the motion passed.             

             Mrs. Armstrong moved to adjourn, which was seconded by Rev. Agnew.  After an affirmative voice vote, the meeting was adjourned at 7:04 p.m. with a salute to the flag.

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