Transportation agreement will result in savings for city

EAST LIVERPOOL — Some details of a new contract between the city and county for transportation of county jail inmates were shared during city council’s regular meeting Monday night.

Mayor Ryan Stovall signed the contract, which calls for a 2017 van recently purchased by the city to transport prisoners between the jail and East Liverpool Municipal Court to be given to the county.

Asked by Councilman Brian Kerr if the court has video arraignments available, Stovall said it is up to the judges if a prisoner is arraigned via video, saying that most of those being transported are on Thursdays, commonly known as “public defender day,” when those represented by public defenders actually have the opportunity to meet and discuss their cases at the court.

“I do believe they have video arraignments on other days,” Stovall said.

The agreement calls for the city to pay $600 per month, with St. Clair Township and Liverpool Township police departments also each paying $200 per month for the transportation contract, for a total of $1,000 per month, in addition to giving the van to the county for the transports.

Service-Safety Director Brian Allen said the contract’s annual $7,200 cost to the city is much less than what it was paying for officers to transport prisoners. After the meeting, Allen said it was costing the city about $400 per day in overtime and fuel for transporting prisoners prior to this agreement and, every other week, the townships were being forced to pay the same costs as their share when they took their turn transporting.

Allen told council the sheriff could have come back during negotiations and asked for $100 per prisoner per transport, saying, “We didn’t want to go down that route.”

It was pointed out that, under the new agreement, the sheriff’s office also picks up those people who are charged and need to be transported to the jail outside of court hours, which would have, in the past, meant taking city or township officers off the street to transport.

After the meeting, Allen said, “There was a lot of cooperation from the sheriff, the judge, the townships and the city, and this is the best solution for everybody.”

In a somewhat related matter, Allen told council he had met earlier that day with Judge Melissa Byers Emmerling and two representatives from the Ohio Supreme Court to discuss ways to tighten security in City Hall.

A security audit was conducted, and Allen cautioned, “It’s not going to be pretty, and it’s not going to be inexpensive to do.”

He said the judge has been proactive in seeking grant funding for security measures, but said this audit entailed the entire building, although he emphasized, “We don’t have to do everything they recommend.”

Once the audit report is compiled, Allen noted it will not be a public record and he will ask council for an executive session to discuss possible security measures. Ohio’s open records and open meeting laws permit governing bodies to meet in executive session to discuss specialized security arrangements.

Council was addressed by former council member Craig Stowers, Denver Street, who offered praise for a recent decision by Stovall and the health and planning departments to create a new sanitarian/environmental inspector position and for a lengthy list of qualifications the inspector is required to possess.

A landlord by trade, Stowers said he has had dealings in the past with the city’s part-time inspectors, saying, “They would show up without clipboards, wearing shorts, nothing to write on…not Dave or Rick, but other ones.”

He said he has seen former inspectors complaining on social media about having been micromanaged but said, “They must not have been managed enough.”

Also addressing council and saying she is glad about the qualifications for the inspector was Ohio Avenue resident Linda Ziegler, who is also a landlord.

Ziegler said she would like to see a definitive list of inspecting criteria.

She also said she had done some research on job qualifications in the city, citing specifically the service-safety director, who she pointed out sets utility rates and has considerable responsibility.

According to the ordinance she read to council, the SSD is appointed by the mayor and must live in the city within a certain period after being appointed.

“So, he has to be a friend of the mayor? That’s it? For $55,000 a year, we ought to ask for a four-year degree in city management…certainly more than that he lives in the city. I was appalled,” Ziegler said, adding that her research indicated other important jobs in the city also require no qualifications.

Tim Wooley of Pennsylvania Avenue Extension asked for an update on the slide situation there which has left his neighbor without water and having to tote water from Wooley’s house 100 yards away.

He said there was another slide a few days ago, and that Putnam Street, by which he now must reach his home, has deep potholes.

He was advised that Putnam is on the list for repairs, and Allen said he is still waiting a final reply from FEMA on funding repairs to the slide area and said he had been “cautioned strongly” by the agency that unless it’s a life or death situation, not to move forward with any work unless he wants to jeopardize possible funding.

He agreed a temporary waterline needs to be installed as soon as the temperature rises enough to allow for it.

As for updates to other pending projects, Allen said the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has taken over the slide on Dresden Avenue, with an application submitted to FEMA for the remediation work done prior to the ODNR assuming responsibility.

He said local contractor Pusateri Excavating “did us a huge favor and said we’ll work (the payment) out later.”

Allen said he is still waiting to hear from the Ohio Department of Transportation about transferring money from the State Infrastructure Bank loan for repairs to the Lisbon Street project, saying as soon as the transfer is made, mapping can begin there.

The Garfield Street remediation project is still in progress, and Allen said he has to meet with the law director on that project.