EAST LIVERPOOL - Former East Liverpool 2nd Ward councilman Ryan Stovall returned to City Council following a 4 to 3 vote by the precinct committee before Monday evening's city council meeting.
Stovall said he feels the city is moving in the right direction and that he's glad to be able to continue the work that he started years ago. A member of council since 2007, he referred to the recent passage of the streets levy as a vote of confidence from city residents and a signal of their belief in council's ability to get things done. Part of the work he seeks to continue is an overhaul of the city's tax code, which he co-wrote with tax Commissioner Tracey Tennant and which came before the full council at the meeting that followed. He also is making a push for further overhaul of the city's streets that need attention.
Stovall resigned his 2nd Ward council seat last month following the purchase of a home on Orchard Grove in the city's 3rd Ward, making him ineligible to represent 2nd Ward. The vacant 2nd Ward seat was filled by former at-large councilman Chuck Wade, which left this at-large position open.
Ryan Stovall takes the oath of office after winning the vacant council-at-large seat during a special meeting of the East Liverpool City Council Precinct Committee on Monday. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Opposing Stovall for the seat was Brian Kerr, who said he had called committee members asking for their support in advance of the vote and got a sense that this might be the eventual outcome. "I knew coming in it would probably go this way, but at least I tried," he remarked afterward. Kerr encouraged other East Liverpool residents to get involved in government at either the city or county level. "You can't complain about something if you don't try to make a difference," he said. "Step up, do something."
Kerr was elected 1st Ward councilman in 2008 and served as at-large councilman from 2009 through 2011, stepping down to run for mayor in that year's Democratic primary against Jim Swoger. He stated that this wouldn't be his last run at elected office. Though he wouldn't give details, he said that would would again seek political office in May 2013 primary ballot, possibly at the county level.
Council discusses rental properties
By RICHARD SBERNA
EAST LIVERPOOL - Complaints about the sorry state of rental properties dominated the discussion at the East Liverpool City Council meeting Monday night.
Councilman Ray Perorazio expressed his frustration with the condition of homes in his 1st Ward, including one on Maple Tree Street, after receiving complaints from the son of an elderly woman who had recently passed away while living in the residence. Although the death was not blamed on the house, the man was very upset with its condition. Perorazio shared photos of the rental property which displayed a ramshackle exterior, and further claimed the inside was infested with rodents and vermin.
Perorazio claimed that the house had been condemned twice yet had been declared rentable by the office of city engineer William Cowan. Following a conversation with Cowan, he was told that the property could be rented to tenants as work commences on it. "If this is what we're going to deem rentable, then everything else we're doing here tonight is worthless," Perorazio said. "I want something done."
Jack Archer of Rogers was identified as the property owner. Ryan Stovall said this property was an example of the problem of absentee landlords who don't live in the city and don't care about the state of the houses they rent. Perorazio replied that such individuals must be called to account for their lack of care. "We have to tell these kind of people that you're not welcome in our town anymore," he said.
Swoger said that he has since spoken with Cowan about the problem, and that Cowan has agreed to make monthly appearances at council meetings. "He'll start being here," Swoger said. He also stated that the city will seek guidance on making changes to property ordinances that would protect city residents instead of banks and people he characterized as "slum lords."
Council approved a pair of appointments to vacant city board positions. Daniel Painter was approved to fill the remaining term of former board of zoning appeals member Tim Martin, as well as to a five-year term that would expire Jan. 31, 2018. Also approved was Amber Ramsey to fill a seat on the city health board left vacant by former board member Bessie Wells. There is a set expiration date of the term for that seat.
Council heard a third reading of a proposed new chapter to the city's income tax code. Stovall, who co-authored the revisions with tax Commissioner Tracey Tennant, emphasized that the revision contains no increase in current tax rates. The main alteration to the code is the inclusion of provisions for the taxable status of income earned from oil or gas leasing royalties. Stovall explained the the current tax code has been unchanged since 1964 and that changes to the region's economic climate, most notably in the current shale energy boom, could no longer be ignored. "Nobody thought of shale royalties in 1964," he said.
The ordinance for passage of the new chapter was approved 4 to 2, with council members Scott Barrett and Ray Perorazio voting against. Before casting his vote, councilman Charles Wade said he had reservations about voting in favor of the measure, but said that cuts in state funding, such as Local Government Funds and the impending end of estate taxes, have forced him to take make a difficult choice. "I really don't care for this, but I will vote yes to keep it alive," he said.
In other news:
* Mayor Jim Swoger paid tribute to city workers, particularly water department workers and water superintendent Tim Clark, who worked over the weekend to repair multiple line breaks. He also praised police Chief John Lane and his officers for a successful drug raid last Friday on Bradshaw Avenue. "Be proud of these guys," he said to those in attendance.
* A concert to benefit the East Liverpool Police K-9 unit will be held at 8 p.m. this Friday at American Legion Post 374, 1824 Parkway Ave. Performers will include Dave Morgan and 7% Superstar. Tickets are $10 each and available at L&B Donuts, Italo's Pizza, or by calling 330-843-8576.
* The absence of councilman Tom Cunningham was excused, as he had to appear at the concurrent Beaver Local Board of Education meeting in his capacity as principal of Beaver Local High School.