EP housing program to close up shop

EAST PALESTINE – A closure, a move, a nuisance and a potential expansion of business were among items discussed during Monday’s Village Council meeting.

The meeting started with Don Eager, speaking on behalf of the East Palestine Fair Housing Board, expressing gratitude to council for its support and cooperation over the last 16 years.

The Fair Housing Board will close the program after East Palestine dropped its status from city to village, thus losing CHIP money toward home refurbishing. Eager spoke on behalf of his wife, Linda, who was unable to attend.

“We are hoping that money will be available someday,” Eager said. “I just wanted to thank you, for this city was always available whenever we needed meeting space.”

The service is not entirely discontinued, though, as it will continue for a few more months as Eager stated.

“We are looking to continue through the 1-800 number,” Eager said. “It’s going to be free, it’s not going to cost them anything.”

Mayor Margo Zuch expressed regret in the matter, but also looked to work with the board again someday.

“There have been a lot of homes refurbished in this program, and we are sorry we will not be able to avail ourselves to that,” Zuch said.

Council announced the signing of the contract to move into the PNC building. The purchase of the PNC building and sale of the current municipal building on North Market Street should close by Sept. 13.

Another issue was reported excessive amounts of coal dust spilling from trains near Clark Street, used by Norfolk Southern. Many residents have expressed concern, saying it has caused reduced visibility, and Councilman Alan Cohen discussed the situation further.

“It has become a significant problem in the area,” Cohen said. “This morning someone even reported the matter, saying he couldn’t even see the train. The coal dust is so bad.”

Other council members have also spoken on the issue with mixed emotions.

“I’ve called several times and spoke about it,” Village Manager Pete Monteleone said about Norfolk Southern. “I’m not optimistic that any action is going to be taken.”

Taking the serious tone further, Mayor Zuch proposed another option.

“I think if they won’t do something,” Zuch said. “I think it’s time to call the EPA.”

One more matter involved the park’s use of the concession stand, business discussed during the previous meeting. Currently, the stand is in use only during the summer months when the pool is open. Soon, it may be open year-round, and Councilman Don Elzer would like to see the concession stand utilized more.

“We have this beautiful park and this concession stand we’re using only when the pools are open,” Elzer said. “It would bring in money for East Palestine, people will be able to go there. It’s a win-win.”

A draft will be written, and legislation on making the concession stand open year-round will be presented at the next council meeting Sept. 9.