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St. C. council members disagree over service director candidate

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The city has a candidate for service director, but council held a divided vote to forgo three readings of a resolution to hire Jeremy Greenwood as service director Monday.

Earlier in the meeting, Councilman Frank Sabatino took issue with the selection process and questioned Councilman Mike Smith, a fellow member of the finance committee.

“I kind of feel slighted that I was not involved. … Why was I excluded from being involved on the salary?” Sabatino asked.

Smith said he did not have input on the matter, either.

“We should be involved in the input and the decision-making,” Sabatino said.

Council President Jim Velas said Greenwood’s proposed starting salary was similar to that of the former safety and service director, who retired earlier this year.

It would be $78,000 a year for just the initial six months, then $83,000 annually.

This year has marked the hiring of several new officials since the police chief, finance director, clerk of council, and law director had retired.

There has been some dispute among council members before approving newly elected Mayor Kathryn Thalman’s appointments.

Greenwood is an owner of GreenCore Designs, an architectural firm.

During the vote, Sabatino voiced doubts.

“Jeremy seems to be a fine person. … I do have issues with the fact that as a service director and his own business … he would have enough time to do both jobs effectively, and quite frankly I don’t know how he’s going to be able to pull this off, and for that reason I cannot support this resolution,” Sabatino said.

Councilman Mark Bukmir asked for an executive session on the matter.

“I think we should really discuss this further,” Bukmir said.

Councilwoman Terra Butler, who made the motion to suspend the rules that require three readings, declined to table it for an executive session.

Butler said she felt the matter was thoroughly discussed during a special meeting last week.

“(Greenwood) said that he would back off of his business and he would make sure we had the time that we needed,” Butler said.

Bukmir, Sabatino and Councilwoman Linda Jordan voted against, and Butler, Councilwoman Beth Oprisch, and Councilmen Perry Basile and Smith voted in favor. Five votes were necessary to forgo three readings.

“I understand everybody’s got questions about a new guy coming in, but this is really just obstruction,” Basile said.

In other matters, Thalman reported Jennifer McMillen has been hired as the mayor’s administrative assistant.

She also said after conversations with the Belmont County Health Department, the municipal buildings will remain closed except by appointment. The public is reminded to continue protective and sanitary measures.

“This isn’t going to go away,” she said of the pandemic.

She added that the weekly summer concerts on Tuesdays at the amphitheatre have been a success so far, with everyone observing social distancing. Jordan said the city is planning a fall festival in October, possibly with a fireworks display.

Thalman is also continuing to explore funding for alternate routes around St. Clairsville.

She pointed out recent traffic accidents on I-70.

Board of Zoning Director Tom Murphy gave an update on progress of Census reporting. He said there is some disappointment.

“Although our response rate is very good for this area and the nation, however at 2010 our figure at this time was 77.7 percent.

“We’re at 71.5 right now,” he said. “Talking with some Census people, they feel the pandemic that’s out there has people a little uncomfortable.”

Murphy said enumerators will likely begin visiting houses in August and September.

He said they would be trained and practicing social distancing.

The Census has been a concern for city leaders, since early Census projections suggested St. Clairsville was close to dipping beneath the 5,000-person population necessary to maintain city status in Ohio. This would also mean a loss of funding considerations.

Oprisch asked if Census workers had already been visiting homes by this time in 2010, and if this could have impacted the difference in counts.

Murphy said he was comparing self-response rates.

In other matters, disconnections have started for delinquent utility payments and assistance is also offered to customers in setting up payment plans.

As of Monday, $16,600 in total is owed.

Penalties are forgiven for March, April, May and June, totaling $21,000. Penalties have resumed this month. Initial reconnection fees were also waived.

Oprisch commended the generosity of some city residents who made donations for people with delinquent accounts. However, donations must have a specific name or address of the person it is meant for. Donations can be made to the St. Clairsville Council of Churches and people in need of assistance can reach out to the council. A total of $50 not designated to a specific person was given to the council. Contact information can be found at the city website at www.stclairsville.com.

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