Panel backs paving project for state routes

The Finance Committee of city council agreed Monday morning to recommend the city take part in a paving project with the state next year to repave sections of state routes running through the city.

As part of the deal, Mayor John Berlin must sign a commitment letter for the Ohio Department of Transportation this month, agreeing to set aside the city’s share of the project cost.

City Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst explained the state will pay 80 percent of the cost, while the city will pick up 20 percent of the cost for the paving, but 100 percent of the cost for curb ramps and line painting, so he said it’s more like a 75/25 match.

The total estimated cost of the project, including a contingency for cost overruns and inflation, is $856,018, with the city’s share estimated at $212,240.

Berlin advised the capital fund balance as of the end of February and considering any encumbrances or expected bills yet to be paid stands at $359,790. That amount will change as more income tax receipts come in and other costs come out over the year, but he said the fund can cover the project cost, which won’t come until next year.

The state routes running through Salem include 344, 14 and 9, but Kenst said it won’t be necessary to do all of them because Mullins (part of state Route 9) was already done last year along with the intersections where the bricks used to be at Lincoln and State (part of state Route 14) and State and Ellsworth (part of state Route 9). He also said they won’t do the sections of streets that are concrete, such as part of Franklin (state Route 344).

Plans call for the following sections to be repaved through the joint project next year:

– Newgarden Avenue from the city limits to Mullins Street

– South Ellsworth Avenue from Mullins Street to East State Street

– North Lincoln Avenue from East Third Street to East Ninth Street

– West State Street from Dodge Drive to Ellsworth Avenue

– East State Street from Madison to the city limits

– South Lincoln Avenue from Columbia Street to Franklin Street

Berlin said the streets to be done during the summer streets program for this year won’t be determined until the winter weather is over and they take a ride to see what streets need done.

In other business, the committee agreed to a capital expense to renovate the former men’s jail at the police department into an interview room for the department detective. The women’s section had been turned into the dispatch area several years ago, with the men’s side still vacant with steel walls and bars for cells.

Kenst said the project will cost an estimated $14,000, with the police department pledging to use $7,000 from Drug Enforcement Administration funding to pay half the cost if the city pays the other half.

Kenst said they’ve checked on prices for steel scrap and figured they can get $3,000 to $4,000 for the steel they remove, leaving $3,000 to $4,000 that can come from the capital fund. The city no longer uses the holding cells, taking prisoners to the county jail after their arrest and processing.

The committee also discussed a request for a new bucket truck for the city electrician at a cost of $105,820, with the committee requesting additional information regarding the possible worth of the old bucket truck if sold. Kenst said the truck is 20 years old with 67,000 miles on it, but he said the hours of use are what’s bad, not the mileage, with the bucket losing is usability.

He said since the electrician spends 50 percent of his time working with the utilities department, and at least 25 percent of that in the bucket, the Utilities Commission was asked to share in the cost of the new truck for $35,948. The commission did not give an answer because they wanted to make sure it was okay to use utilities money for a truck for another department.

Kenst said he had talked to the law director and the auditor and learned it was okay, but said they had not gotten back to the commission by the time they met last week. The request had been sent to the utilities commission in February.

Kenst said the city would like to keep the bucket truck for the service department to use seven or eight times a year for putting up flags and doing other duties, but Councilman Dave Nestic, a member of the committee, questioned whether it would be worth more to sell the truck than have it to use eight or nine times a year.

Kenst noted that the deal is under state purchasing and the price will go up April 1.

Councilman K. Bret Apple, chairman of the committee, said they could have a special meeting if necessary, once they get the answer regarding the worth of the truck.

The committee agreed to recommend adding the position of vital statistics clerk to the non-bargaining wage ordinance for the health department. The city health board had talked about the position last week with a rate of up to $12.36 max per hour. Berlin said the rate of pay would be less than that.

The committee also agreed to recommend city council accept money from the Columbiana County Commissioners for having a police officer on the county DTF. The commissioners had issued a proposal for communities to join the DTF and receive money from the county to help with the costs. Communities pay the salary and benefits of their officer assigned to the DTF.

The commissioners agreed to use part of the county’s income from casino operations in the state to help out communities who are part of the DTF as an incentive to join. Salem has been a member for many years and recently decided to have the officer work full-time with the DTF, but due to a current staffing shortage at the police department, he’s still working part-time for now, awaiting the hiring of two patrolmen needed due to a resignation and a promotion. A civil service exam for patrolman is set for later this month.

City Auditor Betty Brothers said the county will pay $10,000 for a part-time officer and $20,000 for a full-time officer on the DTF.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at