East Liverpool’s year: challenging yet satisfying

EAST LIVERPOOL – Mother Nature took her toll on the city in 2013, but Mayor James Swoger gave kudos Tuesday to not only employees but volunteers and others who helped overcome a year of adversity.

During his state of the city address during the City Council meeting, Swoger talked about how devastating flooding during the summer months and the cold and snow this winter have been on the city.

“This winter has been extremely difficult, and certain departments deserve a special ‘thank you’ for working, often in sub-zero temperatures,” Swoger related.

He commended the water department’s so-called “water dawgs” for dealing with the many breaks that come with fluctuations in temperatures, giving special recognition to department employee Mike Giambroni, who will be retiring this year.

“He is probably one of the greatest employees anyone could ever have. I’m not sure he’s replaceable,” Swoger said of Giambroni, who was also commended later in the meeting by Councilman Sherrie Curtis who said his positive attitude made other employees change their attitudes about their jobs.

The street department was commended for “continuing to struggle every day” with road conditions, low manpower and equipment that has been in constant use, causing it to break down when most needed, Swoger said.

“The brutal sub-zero temperatures do not recognize the age of equipment. They destroy new and old when it is operated 60-plus hours in a row,” Swoger pointed out.

The Refuse & Recycling Department was also given an atta-boy by the mayor for working in the same bitter temperatures, handling trash cans covered with snow and often frozen to the ground.

Safety forces also gained Swoger’s praise, with the mayor thanking police officers, particularly, for answering accident calls on wintry days involving people, “most of whom should have stayed at home.” He pointed out the police department fielded a total of 7,601 calls during 2013.

The fire department was commended by Swoger for not only answering fire calls but downed power lines and for “often protecting us from ourselves.” He also gave a shout out to Chief Bill Jones for formation of the hazmat team.

A look back at major street work completed in 2013 included West Fourth and Eutaw streets and St. Clair Avenue for a total of nearly $193,000, and Swoger reported $1.3 million in Federal Small City grant funding was awarded in 2011 and will be used, along with a State Infrastructure Bank loan, to do additional street construction this year, including Parkway from the northern to southern city limits; Walnut Street beginning at the intersection of St. Clair Avenue, south to the intersection of Fourth Street; Fifth Street from Walnut to Golding; and Sixth Street from Walnut to Jefferson.

With a 5-mill levy being collected this year, the city also plans on resurfacing neighborhood streets, Swoger reported, saying the city will contract with an outside vendor for chip and seal and fog seal to stretch the levy funding earmarked for resurfacing as far as possible.

He outlined the projects being eyed for the city this year, including continuing cleanup of the former Riverview Florist property, Market Street apartments, New Castle School of Trades, revamping the intersection near Kent State University and continuing use of the street sweeper to clean streets and drops.

Swoger offered a rundown of various departments, saying the zoning department issued 70 zoning certificates, 26 building permits, 11 demolition permits and handled 426 zoning/code enforcement cases during 2013.

The Tourism Bureau actively pursued ad campaigns in several publications, promoting the city, according to Swoger.

He also offered his thanks to volunteers Jack Clutter, Larry Heck and Hissom Roofing for their work at the Broadway Wharf as well as Bill Miller, Tom Clark family, Terry Rudibaugh and Councilman Curtis for volunteering their time to keep Spring Grove Cemetery mowed and cleaned up.

Lastly, Swoger extended his thanks to council and those who serve on city boards, commissions and committees, saying, “I think we’ve all worked well together. That’s what it takes to make it happen. We are a team and will continue to meet the many daily challenges of running the city.”