Liverpool should move quickly; Salem, not so fast

Two Columbiana County cities – East Liverpool and Salem – are looking at ways to revitalize their downtowns.

In East Liverpool’s case, in addition to a lack of businesses, the town has many dilapidated buildings that need to be razed. City Councilman Sherrie Curtis last week, noting the number of buildings that have fallen into disrepair, rightfully urged the law director to pursue existing tear-down orders on those crumbling edifices.

Nothing ruins the looks of a downtown and discourages potential businesses from locating there more than a number of rundown buildings.

Besides frightening away shoppers and attracting the wrong kinds of businesses and tenants, dilapidated buildings send the message, whether rightfully or not, that the town doesn’t care about its image.

Salem, on the other hand, was asked last week to consider a very ambitious plan to revitalize its downtown.

The Downtown Salem Technical Advisory Committee presented its plan to the Committee of the Whole of City Council, asking council to take action regarding buildings, parking, traffic, funding, Internet access and business development for the downtown.

The plan’s developers projected 50 new businesses and 56 new residences could be accomplished through the redevelopment of the downtown, with increased income tax revenue and increased values for the buildings. The plan’s presenter described a business incubator of specialty shops such as glass blowers or cigar makers, fine restaurants or stores that will create a draw for people to travel to Salem for the day.

While much of this already sounds like a plan to create a utopian fantasy, the most controversial part is its proposed funding source. The TAC is proposing a tax of $50 per resident in the city of Salem for two years to provide funding for the redevelopment. A per capita tax? Surely that isn’t what they meant. Think of the burden this would be for families who are already struggling to get by.

They most likely meant a tax which would be the equivalent of $50 per resident for two years. Of course, as with any tax, some will pay more and some will pay none.

Councilman K. Bret Apple said council will need to decide if it wants to follow the recommendations in the report, noting that any tax against the residents would need to be put on the ballot for voters to decide.

Remembering the difficulty encountered when the city wanted to increase the 1 percent income tax, Councilman Clyde Brown said he didn’t think the people would vote for an additional tax.

While members of the TAC are to be lauded for putting together this ambitious plan, we think the plan needs considerable tweaking, especially on the funding portion.

They also need to consider whether the plan really fits Salem’s personality and pocketbook. As one business owner put it, “I wish we were champagne and caviar and cigar stores, but we’re beer and hoagies.”