Former city councilwoman Mary Lou Popa voiced her opinion on two issues Tuesday, asking council to fund a citywide cleanup and hire a second housing inspector.
"Residents of Salem pay taxes and deserve to receive some benefits from them," she said.
This wasn't the first time she pitched the idea of a cleanup to council or used the tax angle in her argument. She appeared at a meeting in 2008 asking that council fund the cleanup, which was a service she supported during her many years on council before losing her seat in 2007. She said the last cleanup cost about $12,000.
"I think this would alleviate a percentage of trash in our neighborhoods," she said, questioning how many members of council had toured their wards looking for trash problems and reported them to the housing inspector.
As for the inspector's duties, she said the amount of work expected is an "impossibility" for one person to accomplish. She said it's time to hire another inspector to help out Housing Inspector Dan Rice, who's a one-man crew. With all the events coming into town, she said the downtown isn't the only place that needs taken care of, noting that people drive through other areas.
Mayor John Berlin noted in his report that he made members of the Finance Committee aware in a recent e-mail that he may be increasing Rice's hours from 30 per week to 35 per week in preparation for home demolitions. He's awaiting word from the Columbiana County Commissioners on how much funding the city will get to demolish vacant homes. The city submitted a list of 46 homes last week.
"Do you think that five hours is going to do the job?" Popa interjected, saying that wouldn't be enough to help.
No action was taken on any of Popa's requests.
In other business, Berlin reported that the last water purchase proposal he received was $5 per 1,000 gallons of untreated water for a one-year contract and no potable water, which he said was an improvement since it was only a one-year deal.
Previously, the proposal with Chesapeake Exploration was $5 per 1,000 gallons of raw water for five years. He said he was told Alliance was still holding out for $7.50 per 1,000 gallons, but they did not have a contract.
Berlin has also been trying to negotiate a deal for the city to secure a lease with Chesapeake for city-owned land. He said the latest offer was $3,500 per acre for the signing bonus and 18.5 percent royalities. The offer before had been for $4,000 per acre and 17 percent royalties.
Law Director Brooke Zellers said they're still working on the language of the contract, which continues to go back and forth between his office and Chesapeake. The contract would only cover land outside of the city, about 487 acres, but Berlin said minus the 112 acres already under lease, it would be more like 375 acres.
Council President Mickey Cope Weaver questioned about another community possibly receiving more money. Berlin said Carrollton had received an offer of $5,800 per acre and 20 percent royalties, but he read it was later rescinded.
For the water, he said he tried and tried to get more than $5 per 1,000 gallons, but the other side isn't budging. The fact that it's down to a one-year contract and includes no potable water is a win. He said he'll continue reporting back to council and continue negotiating.
The mayor read into the record a letter of commendation he received from Columbiana County Prosecutor Robert Herron for Det. Dave Talbert of the Salem Police Department for his work on the Derek Dennison infant death case. Dennison's mother, Miranda Todd, was found guilty last week of his murder. She's supposed to be sentenced Friday in Common Pleas Court.
The letter cited Talbert's professionalism and objectivity in investigating the case, saying he was an integral part of an extensive investigation which required countless hours. Berlin applauded him for his efforts.
During committee reports, Councilman Clyde Brown reported on a meeting he held with his Second Ward constituents and highlighted some of their concerns, including wanting council to do something about stray cats. He said they also asked why other council members didn't have meetings for their wards, which he said would be a good idea.
Several council members commented about some committees not meeting, noting that doesn't mean nothing's being done. Councilman Jeff Cushman said the Utilities Committee he chairs had not met, but in part that's because of the great work of the department's employees and the Utilities Commission.
Councilman Brian Whitehill said all council members sit on three committees each and just because the committee they chair hasn't met, that doesn't mean their other committees haven't met.
Councilman Rick Drummond reminded residents that both he and Councilman Dave Nestic, who couldn't attend the meeting, have websites dedicated to their wards for constituents to leave comments. He said anyone in any ward is welcome to leave comments for him.
He scheduled a meeting of the Rules & Ordinances Committee for 6 p.m. June 26 regarding noise abatement and possibly discussion of the stray cats issue.
Council also agreed to move the first July meeting to 7 p.m. July 5. Council normally meets the first and third Tuesday of each month, but since the first Tuesday falls on July 3, the night of the Salem Fireworks, they decided to move it.
Council approved an ordinance for the purchase of a $2,866 upgrade to the computer mapping software for the Housing and Zoning office, which includes a 20 percent savings if they purchase by July 13. The mapping software has not been updated since 2000. They passed the measure as an emergency, with all three readings at once.
An ordinance to create a part-time secretary position in the police department and abolish the full-time secretary position in the department had its first reading.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at email@example.com