STEUBENVILLE - A proposal to seek a state grant for asbestos abatement and the demolition of the former LaBelle View Nursing Home on Maryland Avenue came under fire Tuesday night by several residents of the LaBelle neighborhood, who said they were opposed to future construction of low-income housing on the property.
The ordinance to file an application for funding from the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund unanimously was approved by the council.
"I know that building has a mold issue but I object to turning the property into HUD property. Can our community stand any more low-income housing. HUD properties don't pay taxes. We as a neighborhood need answers before the legislation is passed as an emergency," said LaDonna Delatore.
CONCERNS ABOUT HOUSING PLANS — Robert Doyle, a LaBelle neighborhood resident, told Steubenville Council Tuesday night he is concerned about future plans for the LaBelle View Nursing Home property if the building is demolished. - Dave Gossett
"It is a good idea to raze a building that is a blight. Our concern is the city's long-term vision for LaBelle," said resident Michael Sirilla.
Robert Doyle said he lives 50 yards from the vacant structure.
"I would be happy to see it come down but I am very concerned of plans for the property. I don't want to see the neighborhood self destruct," Doyle said.
According to Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi, "post demolition plans must be provided in the grant application. The property can be used for commercial or housing use. The developer will have to comply with zoning requirements for the site."
Petrossi told the city's planning and zoning commission last week a Ravenna-based corporation is considering demolishing the structure and building a multi-use family residential facility.
Petrossi said the former school/nursing home is owned by the Tower of Power Church located adjacent to the vacant property, "but they don't have the resources to bring the building into compliance or to bring it down."
William C. Watson later thanked the council members for their votes and said the structure needs to be demolished.
"That nursing home needs to be torn down. Whatever goes there will be better than what is there now," Watson noted.
Council also approved a similar grant application for asbestos abatement at the former Grand Theater on South Fourth Street during the lengthy meeting.
In other business:
An ordinance authorizing the Ohio Department of Transportation to proceed with the $3.5 million paving of state Route 7 in the city was approved on an emergency basis.
The state will bear most of the expenses for a project that will include replacement of the guardrails, replacement of the barrier wall at the South End of the city and repair of the rest of the barrier wall that separates the north and southbound lanes.
"The city will be responsible for approximately $45,000 for handicapped access sidewalk ramps. That money has already been budgeted in our .07 street improvement fund," explained City Engineer Michael Dolak.
"The project is scheduled to be advertised in early April and the bids will be opened in late April and I anticipate the work will start in June," said Dolak.
An emergency ordinance for the repaving of the Lovers Lane Connector from Sunset Boulevard to county Road 43 also was approved by council members.
"The connector opened in 1992 and is approximately one mile long. This project will cost $930,000 and will include resurfacing the roadway and replacement of the guardrail. And 80 percent of the project is funded with federal dollars. The city is responsible for 20 percent of the project expense but I applied for state funding that will cover about 15 percent of our share," said Dolak.
Dolak said that project will start in July and has a Sept. 30 completion date.
An ordinance authorizing the city manager to advertise for professional engineering construction administration services for the connector project was approved.
An ordinance authorizing advertising a request for qualifications for professional services under the Ohio Community Housing Improvement Program received unanimous approval.
A resolution opposing the proposal by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, "to centralize the collection of municipal taxes in the state" also won approval from council.
Two rezoning requests were approved by council including changing the 1.24-acre Pietro DiNovo & Sons dealership lot from a Business-1 district to a General Commercial and Industrial District for warehouse purposes.
Approval was granted for legislation to rezone two lots on Powell Avenue adjacent to the Sunset Motors dealership on Sunset Boulevard to tear down two houses to expand the dealership parking area.
A third and final reading was heard for an ordinance that agrees to new signage, including guide, route, regulatory and warning signs at the interchanges on U.S. Route 22 from Reeds Mill to state Route 7.
That project is funded entirely by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
City Manager Cathy Davison officially responded to a recent letter to the editor in the Herald-Star that questioned a city policy to bill insurance companies for motor vehicle accident services, "that are beyond the core government services and primary function and scope of basic criminal protection, investigation and fire suppression."
"The program was put in place instead of raising the real property tax to meet the increased needs of safety. The services are charged to the at-fault driver and initially filed with their insurance company. The fee is paid by the insurance carrier who insures the at-fault driver and the funds received are used exclusively for safety services," explained Davison.
Davison also announced the city is participating in a Reader's Digest contest to determine the best city in America.
"You can go to www.readersdigest.com/america and vote for Steubenville. And we have put together a city website that is contained in the Readers Digest website. Anyone who would like to share their memories and stories about Steubenville should contact my office and we will make arrangements to videotape you and then post that video on that website," said Davison.
Third Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf said the city can win up to $50,000 but residents must vote for Steubenville online.
"This is one time when we can urge everyone to vote early and vote often. Voting ends March 1. I am asking everyone to get involved in supporting the city. If we win the money it can be used for beautification projects or improvements to our neighborhood parks," said Metcalf.