Tipping fee advances through council

EAST LIVERPOOL – East Liverpool City Council advanced legislation that would impose a tipping fee on bulk material handlers, who turned out in force Tuesday night to oppose the fee as burdensome.

The 25-cents-per-ton fee would be assessed on all bulk materials transported or shipped within and from the city. Facilities would be required to pay the fee on a monthly basis based on shipping manifests and other records.

The city would use the revenue, once a special fund is established, to maintain and repair streets that are most heavily used by the companies, cover the cost of police and fire services related to bulk materials transport, and pay for liability insurance.

But representatives of Seaforth Mineral & Ore Co., Parsons Terminal Co., Growmark FS and Agland Co-op Inc. said they were being unfairly blamed for the deterioration of River Road and other city thoroughfares that are used for bulk material transport.

“Are our trucks doing the damage, or is it the lack of maintenance on the roads?” said Lee Lipp, vice president of grain marketing for Agland Co-op. “The lack of maintenance over the past 20 to 25 years is the main problem.”

Lipp said the eight businesses that would be most affected by the fee have already offered to help fix River Road and some have patched the worst holes at their own expense.

Terry Milhoan, vice president and general manager of Parsons Terminal Co., said the companies along the riverfront take responsibility for much of the snow removal, road patching and lawn maintenance in the area.

“Don’t penalize the businesses on River Road,” Milhoan said. “You’re going in the wrong direction. There’s got to be a better way.”

James McClurg, president of Seaforth Mineral, and Gary McClurg, CEO of Seaforth, said it was unfair of Councilman Ray Perorazio to say at the Aug. 26 council meeting that the riverfront companies contribute little to the city financially.

“I think we do put a lot into the community and take very little out,” Gary McClurg said.

“We want to be good corporate citizens,” James McClurg said. “This would really put an undue burden on those of us who deal in large bulk materials.”

Councilmen, including Perorazio, Mayor James P. Swoger and Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell said they were amenable to further discussions with the companies, hinting that a compromise solution might be possible.

“I think we need to discuss this more,” Councilman Russell Dray said.

Legislation imposing the fee advanced by a vote of 6-1, with Councilman Tom Cunningham voting against it. Legislation establishing a Bulk Material Transport Fund passed as an emergency measure 6-1, with Cunningham voting against it.

Also Tuesday, representatives of the East Liverpool Landlords’ Association reiterated their concerns with pending legislation that would raise annual rental license fees by $20 per unit.

The fees cover the cost of a Planning Department program that requires rental units to be inspected according to certain health and safety standards. The revenue generate from the fee increase would help fund two part-time inspectors.

But Jim Salvatore, secretary-treasurer of the landlords’ association, said the measure came as a surprise and is unnecessary. The association wants the city to impose a self-inspection regimen that would “eliminate the pressure on the Planning Department to conduct 1,700 housing inspections a year and allow them to concentrate on the slum lord properties …,” he said.

Association President David Damaso said he checked the city’s records and determined that only 19 inspections were done in 2013. With $56,000 in fees collected in 2013, he said, that amounts to $3,000 per inspection.

“This program is a farce. How can council legitimately ask for more money?” Damaso said.

The legislation increasing the fees will be eligible for final passage at the next council meeting.