By David Skolnick
The city’s water department is joining the 21st century.
Likely starting in October, water customers will be able to pay and view their bills online, said Harry L. Johnson III, water commissioner/office manager.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “We’re finally moving ahead with this and expect it to be popular with our customers.”
The department has accepted credit-card payments for the past nine years, but customers could use them only when coming to the water office in city hall, 26 S. Phelps St., to pay their bills.
Some banks allow customers to pay city water bills directly from their checking accounts.
About 1.5 percent of the water department’s 52,500 or so customers pay with credit cards or from their bank accounts, Johnson said.
The new system is expected to increase credit- card payments to about 10 percent to 15 percent, Johnson said.
City council will consider legislation Wednesday permitting the board of control to approve agreements with companies that would provide the software and computer infrastructure to allow customers to pay bills online as well as view and print copies of their bills, and see their water consumption.
The city purchases its water in bulk from the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District, which gets it from Meander Reservoir. It sells water to city residents as well as to those in parts of Austintown, Boardman, Canfield, Liberty, Girard, Weathersfield and North Jackson.
The city adds a 40 percent surcharge to the bills of water customers who don’t live in Youngstown.
City council also will consider legislation Wednesday for a tax abatement for the proposed Giovanni’s Catering & Banquet Hall at 113 S. Meridian Road, the former Italian-American War Veterans Post 3 [ITAM] on the West Side.
John Zeoli, a contractor who filed the foreclosure lawsuit against the ITAM last year, purchased the building in January for $160,000. Zeoli was owed $82,000 by the club for unpaid renovations in 2010 and $2,000 in tools and supplies that went missing from the building that closed in August 2011 after the club’s charter was revoked by ITAM national for purported mismanagement of the post.
Zeoli is proposing $1.2 million in improvements and plans to create 20 jobs in the first three years of operations.
“It hasn’t moved forward, and we’re not certain it’s going to move forward,” said T. Sharon Woodberry, the city’s economic- development director, about the catering and banquet hall. “It depends on financing. He needs to get a commitment from a bank.”
The 75-percent, 10-year real-property tax abatement would save $16,2000 for the business that would pay $5,400 annually in taxes, Woodberry said.
If council approves the abatement, the board of control would also need to OK it before it takes effect.
At Wednesday’s meeting, council will vote on placing a charter amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot to eliminate the park and recreation commission, in existence since 1935.
Council’s three- member park and playgrounds committee voted Aug. 7 to recommend it for a charter amendment to the full council. At that meeting, the four other council members had no objection to putting the proposal before voters.
Also, council will vote on forwarding to the Mahoning County Board of Elections the language for an anti-fracking charter amendment, an effort organized by the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee, for the Nov. 5 ballot.
The group submitted 81 petitions with 2,448 signatures to Valencia Marrow, city council clerk, Aug. 12. Council’s vote is a formality with Marrow hand- delivering the petitions Thursday or Friday to the elections board.
Board of elections clerks will review the petitions to determine the validity of the signatures. To get on the ballot, the groups needs at least 1,562 valid signatures.
City voters in May rejected a similar charter amendment 56.85 percent to 43.15 percent.
If approved, the proposal would ban fracking in the city. But city and state officials say the ban isn’t enforceable because a 2004 law gives the state complete control over gas and oil drilling.