Facebook post turns to city council meeting quarrel

STEUBENVILLE — A Facebook post by a Steubenville City Council member who said he would dump a load of trash on the lawn of the municipal building found its way from the cyberworld into reality Tuesday night during council’s weekly meeting.

Third Ward Councilman Eric Timmons posted Monday evening on his Facebook account pictures of a trash piles and discarded furniture at abandoned houses on Pennsylvania and McDowell avenues.

Timmons posted: “There are things that are going to take time in this city to correct. This is not one of them. Instead of getting it cleaned up we let it sit there for six months … sometimes more. Council has made it clear that we want this type of stuff picked up. If this is still there at this time next Monday, I’m taking it down and dumping it at the city building. Message me if you have a truck I can use or I’ll rent something. 1513 Pennsylvania Ave. and 607 McDowell. Embarrassing.”

Tuesday evening, Timmons said he stood by what he said, even though some attacks became personal.

“The bottom line is, why is garbage on the curb for months at a time?” he asked.

He said his post was made in frustration because what he says in council meetings “is not going anywhere.” Timmons said council has asked why garbage is allowed to sit for months. He questioned why the sanitation workers don’t approach City Manager Jim Mavromatis or Streets and Sanitation Superintendent Bob Baird to get a work order to allow them to pick up the items. He also said Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn has suggested crews make notes about violations.

“We shouldn’t have to go public to have this taken care of when council has made it abundantly clear, pick it up and we fine them,” he said. “If it’s abandoned, pick it up. I have the excuse that if we pick it up that we’re condoning it, so there should be no problem if I pile it up at the fort or the corner of this building. I will continue to complain until our mindset changes and we implement the policy that this council has been requesting for two years.”

In response, Mavromatis first said that former Law Director S. Gary Repella had said posts made on Facebook could not stand as city policy.

“I can’t control what any of you do when you go on social media, so long as you understand this: You are flying solo,” he said. “You put out any misinformation and that results in people trying to sue the city, it’s not going to fly.”

He said one site Timmons complained about is an habitual illegal dumpsite. He said the sanitation department reported picking up items there several times during the past year. He said the McDowell site appeared to have more recently dumped items.

“The bottom line is I know what our workers do,” said Mavromatis. “They do what they are told to do. I have called Bob on numerous occasions for special pickups and that’s what they do.”

Mavromatis said the tone of Timmons’ post was issued “as a dare.”

“This isn’t junior high,” he said. “I will explain something to you, and not just you, but anybody. If you choose to bring garbage and dump it in front of the city building, I guarantee you that you will go to jail. I have no qualms about this at all. There is a structured system in place. Council calls the clerk, a work order is issued. There have been work orders in there. I had them pulled. The last one (on one of the sites in the Facebook complaint) was in August of 2016.”

Mavromatis said when a complaint came to him, he directed Baird to have his crews pick up the items. He vowed the current piles will be picked up Friday.

Timmons and Mavromatis traded comments about jail for a moment until 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna said nobody thinks the sanitation workers are slackers, but all of council has told Mavromatis to have garbage piles picked up.

“We want someone charged with the quick way you wanted to charge a councilman and put him in jail,” said Villamagna. “Open the bags, find out who the stuff belongs to and have them arrested and charged. I agree that social media is the worst thing they ever came up with.”

Mavromatis said the issue with charging a property owner is needing proof they put the refuse on the property. Villamagna said the city has an obligation to pick up the trash.

“There may be some cost but we can’t leave that garbage,” he said. “If somebody dumps something in my yard, I don’t know who, I just can’t leave it there. I’m responsible to get it out of there. It will cost me money.”

Timmons said, “You won’t pick it up now to prove a point.”

Mavromatis responded, “It will be picked up Friday.”