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City hall fire escape repairs to take 4 months

YOUNGSTOWN — It will take about four months to fix problems with the fire escape at city hall, which needs to be repaired.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown issued a Friday statement that Murphy Contracting Co. and Quality Metal Works, both of Youngstown, met Wednesday with Charles Shasho, the city’s deputy director of public works, “to discuss an emergency repair plan.”

Starting Monday, the companies will begin sandblasting and preparing surfaces on all seven stories of city hall’s enclosed fire escape, a process that will take about four weeks, according to Brown’s statement.

“Once completed, a structural engineer will conduct an inspection to identify areas of repair,” the statement reads. “That process will be completed approximately 14 days following the steel preparation work. Structural steel repairs of the fire escape will commence based upon the results of the inspection.”

There initially was talk of either replacing or repairing the fire escape and it was determined that it will be repaired, Shasho said.

Also, fire escape doors will be repaired or replaced.

The estimated time for all of the repairs is 120 days, according to the statement.

The cost for the emergency repairs is unknown at this point, but legislation for council to consider “is forthcoming,” Shasho said.

A Feb. 3 inspection report determined that the fire escape was inoperable and needed to be repaired or replaced. City officials announced March 9 that the fire escape would be shut down until work to it could be finished.

City council moved its meeting and two committee meetings this week from the sixth floor of city hall to the community room at the city-owned Covelli Centre because of safety issues related to attendees at those public meetings.

Council had planned last weekend to meet in its caucus room, adjacent to council chambers, and ban the public from attending in person while broadcasting proceedings on the city’s YouTube channel.

That possibility was canceled after city Law Director Jeff Limbian issued a legal decision on Sunday that stated: “Live streaming city council meetings while contemporaneously limiting public access to city council meetings is contrary to Ohio statutes, Ohio Sunshine Laws, Ohio Attorney General opinions and directions and public policy.”

Brown’s Friday statement reads: “Until repaired, occupancy limits will be a priority. Due to the uncertainty of the number (of) attendees at public meetings, access to city hall chambers for council meetings will be prohibited.”

Limbian said Friday: “I believe that means that current protocols will remain in effect with all council meetings remaining off site at the Covelli community room so that any interested members of the community can attend. Board of control meetings will remain in city hall. I am only uncertain about council committee meetings since there is a low expectation about public interest and attendance.”

The board of control is scheduled to meet Thursday in the council caucus room. Also, a planning commission / board of zoning appeals meeting is scheduled for Tuesday on the fifth floor.

Council has two committee meetings scheduled next week as well as a Thursday budget meeting. All were scheduled for the caucus room, but council President Tom Hetrick said he expected them to be relocated.

“From my perspective, we’re planning to not have any meeting at city hall,” he said Friday. “My assumption is we weren’t going to be meeting at city hall.”

Regarding the mayor’s statement, Hetrick said, “The way I interpret it is we need to find other locations for meetings and that is what I was anticipating for the near future. The Covelli Centre went well. It was a good location for a meeting.”

Hetrick said he’s proposed having all council meetings and committee meetings there.

Also Brown’s statement read: “Please be advised that fire drills, evacuation plans and emergency protocols will be reviewed and updated.”

The Vindicator reported last week that fire Chief Barry Finley wrote in an email to April Edwards, the chief fire inspector, that he learned there were “no inspections or fire drills” in “city hall since I took over as chief” in February 2018.

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