Mayor offers state of the city address

EAST LIVERPOOL – The city saw some improvements in 2012 and is looking at even more in 2013.

That was the message shared with City Council Tuesday night as Mayor Jim Swoger offered his annual state of the city address.

With the condition of streets always a major concern with residents, Swoger led his comments with a report on paving accomplishments during 2012, noting that lower St. Clair Avenue, McKinnon, Maine Boulevard, parts of Ambrose Avenue and all of Lisbon Street were paved last year.

In the coming months, Swoger said, Fourth Street between Jackson and Monroe will be paved, with engineering to start for repaving Fifth, Sixth, Walnut and Parkway, using a Small Cities Grant to fund 80 percent of the work.

“I’m very happy with that,” Swoger said of the grant funding.

Swoger reported that a road survey will be conducted by his staff that will then be forwarded to council’s street committee to decide on a course for paving neighborhood streets.

Voters recently approved a street levy that has been earmarked for neighborhood street improvements.

The mayor said Deputy Service-Safety Director Dan Galeoti set a new record during 2012 for patching city streets, using 750 tons of material, but he said, “That’s a lot of material. We’re hoping not to have to do that this year.”

The city partnered in late 2012 with Better City LLC, a consultant from Utah, to help revitalize the city, and Swoger said the group’s partnership with community stakeholders “is the greatest effort yet towards re-defining East Liverpool.”

Swoger said he and other city officials have been meeting frequently with Better City, which was in town last week to meet with business owners and some council members.

“This is a step to move the city into the future,” he said of the consultant firm.

Another improvement set for the near future is replacing the dilapidated car barn on Pennsylvania Avenue, with Swoger reporting Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell will be presenting a three-step plan to accomplish that.

Through a property swap with the local school district, the city acquired the former East Junior High School in 2012, and while the city works to find a way to develop the property, Swoger said it has not sat idle.

“The facility has been a great use for all local police departments (for) active shooter and police dog training events, with the only cost to the city being monthly utilities,” Swoger reported.

The property traded to the school district will be used for additional parking for school events.

The city’s health department saw an increase in patients and the number of vaccines given during 2012, and health Commissioner Jelayne Dray, along with fire Chief Bill Jones, are actively working to find an emergency shelter in the city.

Safety forces saw a busy year in 2012, and Swoger had police Chief John Lane and Chief Jones offer reports.

Lane reported his department investigated 156 assaults, 618 thefts, 315 domestic violence calls, 635 criminal charges and 1,043 traffic arrests during the year, according to available statistics.

The department, along with the fire department, investigated three homicides, those of three children killed in a house fire set by their father, whose death was deemed suicide.

Retirements in the police department, including officers and dispatchers, as well as several new hires were recorded during 2012, and Lane told council his newest officer will be sworn in today.

Chief Jones said his department responded to 399 calls for assistance, which included 39 structure fires, an increase of 10 over 2011. He also reported the fire that killed the three children and their father as the department’s four fatalities for the year.

The fire department also logged 12 vehicle fires, 52 other fires and 296 calls for such things as medical assists, extrications and hazardous materials.

Jones reported the retirement of firefighters Bill Miller and Chris Harrison, who he said were “very experienced firefighters,” and the subsequent hiring of two replacements, allowing the department to continue with a 12-man roster.

He said Miller – who served as the department’s mechanic – still comes by and helps with its aging fleet of vehicles, the majority of time at no cost.

Swoger commended both chiefs and also council for “showing unity,” saying, “What a pleasure to work with City Council. We don’t always agree but you’ve served the people well and I thank you.”

In other news,

* East Liverpool Police Chief John Lane told City Council Tuesday night his newest dispatcher Herman Potts “did a good job” handling the bank robbery call in a professional manner. In addition, Patrolman Shawn Long ascertained that the vehicle used in the robbery was a rental car and he contacted the rental agency and learned the identity of the renter, which Lane said helped in locating the vehicle.