EP working for present and future

EAST PALESTINE — A change to an infrastructure project has an added benefit of preparing the village for future growth.

That change is the replacement of a siphon currently located near the park that is part of the sanitary sewer system.

Council members were briefed on the project with MS Consultants engineer Joe Leson during a utility meeting before last week’s council meeting.

Replacing the siphon is part of the village’s $7.84 million project to improve the sanitary sewer system to satisfy an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency mandate from 2011 after residents in a portion of the village complained about overflows into their basements.

The bulk of the project is the construction of a million-gallon equalization basin.

Leson and village officials believe that a new, better siphon will also help alleviate problems in the system.

“We really feel like this is an important part of the project,” Village Manager Pete Monteleone said.

Original plans called for improvements to the existing siphon.

Leson said that instead, a new siphon has been designed that has larger capacity. The new siphon would consist of three 15-inch pipes as opposed to the existing siphon’s two 14-inch pipes.

John Jurjavcic, who is the water operator in charge, said the larger siphon is nice to have in place for the future.

“What is nice about this is that if you get growth down the road you already have pipe in place,” he said, referring to the third pipe.

The siphon will add $175,000 to the project cost, however, Leson said that due to a decrease in anticipated contingencies as the project moves forward, the village likely won’t see that much of a difference.

“The overall project cost is pretty close to the same with the siphon in there,” he said, noting that construction cost would not change.

The existing siphon will remain in service while the new one is being constructed, he added.

“The idea is to alleviate a lot of the flooding upstream. It’s not a fix-all. You still could have things happening and bubbling out of your system that are still not able to get to the siphon. You are just front-loading it now to have the infrastructure later,” Leson said.

Councilman Doug Simpson said that he believes the new siphon will alleviate flooding in some other areas of the village.


EP McDonald’s being remodeled

Morning Journal/Katie White A major remodeling project is under way at the East Palestine McDonald’s.

EAST PALESTINE — Don’t worry, you can still have your break today.

The McDonald’s drive-thru on South Market Street remains open as the building undergoes renovations to fall in line with a company upgrade.

Local owner Steve Telischak said the work began a week ago and the construction company is hoping to have the project finished by Sept. 15.

He said the overall company goal is to modernize each McDonald’s restaurant across the country for what the company is calling a bigger, better, bolder, 2020 vision, referring to the date it hopes to have all upgrades completed.

Telischak has been a McDonald’s franchise owner since 1981 — back when some restaurants still featured the Ronald McDonald’s statues and outdoor play places.

He remembers when the Chicken McNugget was first introduced.

“I have seen everything,” he said.

He said the local restaurant will have one new digital self-order kiosk inside and an all-new look on the outside. A new dining room, new bathrooms and new counter area will also included in the project.

“They are making it look more modern, up to date,” Telischak said.

While sticking with a modern look that is similar across locations, each restaurant has about three different variations on the exterior appearance.

For example, the McDonald’s in Lisbon is a dark gray color while the Salem McDonald’s is more of a brown. Both are owned by Telischak

What look the East Palestine restaurant will feature remains unknown at this point.

According to a statement on the McDonald’s company website, East Palestine is one of 380 restaurants in Ohio to undergo renovations as part of a $251 million investment in the state.

McDonald’s and its franchisees are investing $6 billion nationwide to modernize restaurants by 2020, the company said.

“Times change and you gotta change with the times,” Telischak said.

In addition to the East Palestine, Lisbon and Salem restaurants, Telischak is also owner of the Columbiana and Calcutta restaurants in this county, in addition to restaurants in Boardman, North Lima, and Chester, W.Va.

While the East Palestine restaurant’s dining area will be closed during the project, the drive-thru will remain open during normal hours, which are 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., he added.

Work is being done by Max Construction out of Pittsburgh, and Telischak said he is pleased with how fast the work is getting done so far.

The company completed the Salem restaurant remodel within 17 days, he said.

kwhite@mojonews.com 9/3/18

Palestine firefighter remains sidelined

EAST PALESTINE — A local firefighter who broke his shoulder while fighting a fire on West Main Street earlier this month is still recuperating from his injuries, fire Chief Joshua Brown said on Tuesday.

Brown and police Sgt. Don Johnson said they hope that someone can come forward with information that will help in the investigation to find the person or persons responsible for setting the fire that destroyed the vacant home.

“We are still looking for answers. I am hoping we are able to come up with a suspect,” Johnson said.

They both emphasized that anyone who provides information that can help lead authorities to whomever is responsible will be eligible for a reward up to $5,000 through the Ohio Blue Ribbon Arson Committee.

People are asked to call the fire department at 330-426-4341 or the state at 1-800-589-2728.

Brown did not identify the firefighter who remains off duty for now because of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act.

That firefighter and another firefighter were both injured when they fell into a large hole that gave way as they were attempting to get out of the way of glass from a window that blew out as a result of the fire.

Brown has said the hole appeared to be the result of an eroded culvert. On Tuesday, he said the property owner is responsible for the hole.

The other firefighter who was injured was back on full duty for the fire department shortly after, while the other firefighter remains off duty for now.

“As a volunteer fire department, any loss greatly impacts the entire team,” Brown said of the difference one person can make on a department already struggling with skeleton crew since most people have full-time jobs and aren’t always available.

Although considered volunteer, all of the village’s firefighters and EMTs are part-time paid on-call employees, and as such receive Bureau of Workers’ Compensation benefits.

“It’s always a huge hit when you’re down a person,” Johnson said.

He said the departments have spent a lot of time investigating the case, but additional help is needed from the public.

“I’m hoping we can get some kind of tip to help us find who is responsible,” Johnson said.

Brown also said the department is still investigating a fire that damaged a shed at the Unity Township baseball fields.

Until this month, the department had not had a suspicious fire since the one on East Taggart Street in December of 2014. However, Brown said an investigation determined that to be accidental.


Company cleared to build growing facility in Palestine

EAST PALESTINE — A company interested in locating its medical marijuana cultivation facility in East Palestine has received the go-ahead from the state after winning an appeal of its original license rejection.

Village Manager Pete Monteleone confirmed on Thursday that Pure OH, LLC won the appeal and will now be moving ahead with plans to construct and operate a facility at the privately owned property on Kemple Road off Bacon Avenue.

It is the only company in the county to receive a cultivation license.

Pure OH is a subsidiary of Pure O&M (Operations and Management) of Denver, Colo., which manages facilities in Puerto Rico, Colorado, New York and Florida.

Pure O&M partner Gregg Holtzman presented the company’s plans to the village a few times over the course of last year while it was seeking the cultivation license through the state.

Monteleone said Holtzman contacted him on Thursday to announce a provisional license has been awarded.

“We are excited to press forward,” Monteleone said.

Ohio Department of Commerce spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski said Pure OH was not originally awarded a Level II cultivator license because it did not receive the minimum qualifying score on the security question of its application, although it did receive an overall score that would have qualified it for a license had it not been for the security score.

She explained the company scored an 11 and it needed a minimum score of 12 for the security portion of the application.

However, Pure OH requested an administrative hearing, which was held in February, and showed that the application included elements that should have resulted in additional points in the security section.

Gostomski said the hearing showed “abundant proof” that the company did in fact have what was required to meet the minimum score.

The company was able to demonstrate that its plan for the facility contained various security transportation (including certain vehicle lockbox and certain GPS features), vehicle insurance and fencing matters for which it was not awarded points, she explained.

“Our director agreed and they were issued a provisional license (Wednesday),” she said.

Pure OH was one of 65 other applicants that requested an administrative hearing to appeal rejection of licenses, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer report on Thursday.

With the provisional license awarded, Pure OH now has nine months to get the facility ready for operation.

Gostomski said that once the company has constructed the facility and is ready to grow medical marijuana, it must contact the department of commerce, which will inspect the facility and award a certificate of operation if the facility adheres to what was proposed in the application.

The company can begin cultivating medical marijuana as soon as the certificate is awarded.

Holtzman told the village last year that the plan is to build a 7,500-square-foot office and processing building, with a 3,000-square-foot greenhouse initially, with potential for more greenhouses later.

The facility is estimated to cost $2.5 to $3 million to build.

All growing and processing would be done inside to comply with state law, and nothing made at the facility would be available to East Palestine residents.

Holtzman has said the company plans to use local contractors for the construction, and even hire local for the future jobs at the facility.

kwhite@mojonews.com Originally published July 20, 2018

Drug crackdown leads Palestine cops from traffic stop to home on Taggart

According to information released by police Chief Jim Brown III on Thursday, Detective Dan Haueter initiated a drug investigation in the village on June 16.

As part of the investigation, Lt. Don Johnson made a traffic stop on North Pleasant Drive in which K-9 Toney alerted on the front passenger side door of the vehicle. During a search of the vehicle, police found suspected methamphetamine, unidentified pills and drug paraphernalia. A passenger in the vehicle was arrested on an outstanding warrant.

Brown said that further into the investigation, Haueter was able to obtain a search warrant for 740 E. Taggart St., Apt. A.

He said that Haueter, Johnson, and other East Palestine officers executed the warrant and seized numerous drug paraphernalia items, drug packaging materials, and suspected marijuana, THC extract and LSD.

He added that charges on those involved will be filed at a later date pending lab results. The identity of the passenger arrested on the warrant was not released on Thursday, since the investigation is ongoing.

Brown said the case is a result of the combined efforts of Haueter, Johnson, K-9 Toney, East Palestine patrol officers and the county prosecutor’s office.

“The officers did an outstanding job from start to finish. The patience, coordination and effort put into this case cannot be overstated. Our officers work tirelessly under less than ideal conditions yet they always find a way to get the job done. They continue to demonstrate unwavering dedication to keeping our community safe and combating the drug epidemic in our area,” he added.


East Palestine, Unity eyeing economic district

EAST PALESTINE — A draft proposal for a Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) between the village and Unity Township is taking shape.

Village Manager Pete Monteleone gave council an update on Monday.

He said he met with Economic Development Director Tad Herold and is pleased with the help Herold and the department are providing on the proposal, which includes a mapped out area for the potential district.

The proposal will be presented to council for review at a future meeting, Monteleone said.

The village has been discussing a potential JEDD with the township for years, but the project never moved forward because some township residents were reportedly not in favor.

Councilmen DJ Yokley and Doug Simpson told council last month that after meeting with township officials they believe a district is a possibility at this point.

Monteleone also said on Monday that Municipal Attorney Dave Powers has drafted a proposed agreement, should council decide to move forward with the idea.

The agreement would need approval from both the village and the township in order to create the district.

In a JEDD the village would receive a portion of taxes levied without having to annex property, and the township could still collect property taxes and receive municipal water.

It would not involve police protection, however.

Village officials have said the district gives more leeway for utility services as opposed to annexation, which was attempted in recent years but was not successful. They believe that running water and sewer utilities up North Market Street near the township would attract more economic development.

“It’s a great opportunity … I am really excited,” Yokley said during the Monday meeting.

Monteleone also announced that Leslie Run has been repaired by the street crew, and that paving will begin on targeted village streets in early June. Repairs are also planned for North Market and Taggart Street.

“This year we are working at being methodical about our approach,” Monteleone said in his report to council.

He explained that instead of “chasing potholes all over town” the crew will fix potholes on a street by street basis to keep better track of what has been done.

Council members and Mayor Margo Zuch praised the street department for their work.

Monteleone said the crew is also working with the water department to see that a portion of Market Street across from village hall is repaired before the annual Street Fair.

Article published in Morning Journal News kwhite@mojonews.com

Palestine Council Still Has Snow On Its Mind

EAST PALESTINE — The logistics of implementing a parking ban in areas of the village during periods of snow was discussed among council on Monday.

Councilman Brett Todd asked about the status of the ban he suggested in January in response to street crews having difficulty with snow removal because of parked cars.

Council has appeared favorable to the idea but have concerns as to how it would affect residents whose only place to park is on the street.

During the Monday meeting council also wondered who would determine when a parking ban should take effect, and how residents would be informed.

Todd said that an announcement would likely be made on television, like other communities with snow parking bans.

Council clerk Misti Martin said that Salem and some other municipalities have automatic snow parking bans with signs placed in designated areas to let people know.

Todd said that ordering the necessary signs and installation could get costly. He suggested implementing a ban first to see how it goes, and later installing signs if needed.

Council also wondered where the parking ban would be enforced, although it was generally accepted that it would cover the main streets through town, and not alleyways.

Building and zoning inspector John Simon pointed out the village already has an ordinance that allows the village to impound vehicles that interfere with snow removal.

A decision was not made by council that evening.

In other business, council approved:

— A third and final reading to legislation implementing a $1 increase to daily pool admissions at the park, resulting in a new rate of $4 for students, seniors and active military and $5 for adults, as well as increasing pool party rates by $10 a month.

— A third and final reading of an encroachment agreement for 130 Concord Dr.

— A third and final reading of legislation amending the income tax code to fall in line with state changes.

— A motion to not hold a hearing for a liquor request notification from the state for the Original Roadhouse for D1, D2, D3 and D6 licenses at the restaurant on Main Street. Not holding a hearing means that council does not oppose the license request.

— A motion to waive community center rental fees for Dog Days.

— An executive session to discuss pending litigation. No action was taken.


Waterline Break Keeps Palestine Crew Busy

EAST PALESTINE — Village employees spent at least 13 hours on Saturday fixing a waterline break near the former Heid Hall on James Street.

A crew of four water and wastewater employees and department superintendent John Jurjavcic worked in frigid temperatures fixing the leak from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. that night.

They were able to keep warm during that time with torpedo heaters provided by the local fire department.

Jurjavcic said the break was the result of normal wear and tear on one of the three valves on the six-inch line and affected roughly 30 people in the Heid Hall and Liberty Street area.

He said the valve was originally installed around 1996 and that the crew was able to replace the valve and put new bolts on the other two valves.

The valve replacement cost around $450, he added.

Affected homes were placed under a boil order while the crew worked to fix the problem.

“It was a very small shutdown area,” he said.

The leak did affect the former Heid Hall Catholic elementary school building, which is now owned by Dean and Karen Christian, who are working to turn it into a community center.

Mayor Margo Zuch said during the Monday council meeting that village residents should show their appreciation for the village’s crews that have to work in the freezing weather.

“They do a darn good job. Tell them thank-you, because they deserve it,” she said.

In other business during the meeting, council approved:

— A motion to appoint Councilman Alan Cohen as mayor pro-tem for 2018.

— Giving a first reading to legislation authorizing Village Manager Pete Monteleone to advertise for bids for the paving of 13 streets. The streets are Oak, Short, Young, Stacy Avenue, Western Avenue, Frank, Valley, Jackson, Orchard Alley, Anna, East High, Leslie Run, and the alley behind the school.

— Department activity reports for 2017. The fire department handled 298 calls for the year, 34 of which were structure fires and 31 vehicle accidents. Of the 298 calls, 186 were for East Palestine while the majority of the remainder were for Middleton and Unity townships.

— The EMS department handled 730 calls for the year, with 537 in East Palestine and the majority of the remainder in Unity Township.

— The park generated a total of $86,686 in revenue and attracted 17,868 swimmers to the pool. The bulk of the revenue was generated through community center rentals and pool activities.

— The village took in $6,015 in building and demolition permit fees and $9,850 in connection and other fees.

— Council also approved an executive session to discuss pending litigation. No action was taken.


Palestine officers earn promotions


EAST PALESTINE — Two longtime members of the police department are on their way to getting new rankings.

On Monday, council gave first reading to legislation designating new rankings for current Sgt. Don Johnson and Cpl. Brian Moore to lieutenant and sergeant.

The legislation requires two more readings before a vote.

Police Chief Jim Brown III said the rankings more accurately reflect their current job responsibilities. He said the change is not affecting their salaries at this point.

If approved by council, the change will leave Moore’s corporal position open for the promotion of a full-time officer sometime in the future.

Brown said that Johnson and Moore both have more than 20 years in law enforcement.

Johnson is also the department’s K-9 handler, in charge of Toney, the 5-year-old Belgian Malinois the department acquired in 2012.

Moore has served as the department’s DARE program instructor and school resource officer in the village over the years. He is currently a member of the district’s board of education.

In other business, council approved:

— Giving a second reading to legislation establishing the 2018 budget. The budget will be discussed during a finance committee meeting schedule for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 11.

— A new one year contract for Dave Powers are municipal attorney, beginning Jan. 1 at a salary of $15,600.


Article published in Morning Journal News 11/28/17

Bridge Repairs

EAST PALESTINE — A bridge found by the state to be in critical condition over the summer will be repaired within the next two weeks, Village Manager Pete Monteleone told council on Monda

The bridge over Valley Run Creek was inspected by the Ohio Department of Transportation in June and was found to have a few critical issues.

MS Consultants also performed an inspection on the bridge following the ODOT notification, and found that the main problem areas were the west and east abutments, and that the superstructure and asphalt were in good condition.

Monteleone said he has been informed that the repair work is expected to keep the bridge safe and in working condition for the next five years and that in the meantime the village will continue to seek granting funding for a larger repair or replacement in the future.

He said Bova will begin the repair work in two weeks, and the work will not require closure of the bridge.

The project does not require council approval due to being below the $50,000 threshold.

In other business, Monteleone also announced that the village has been conditionally awarded funding from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to renovate the shelters at the park.

The ODNR is awarding $17,455 for the $27,455 project, with the village responsible for a $10,000 match, he said.

The project is still awaiting final approval from the state, and if approved, will be completed sometime this winter, he added.

He also announced that another project at the park has been scheduled for June 3 through Aug. 1 of 2018, and that is to renovate the aging tennis courts.

“These two months are the gap in tennis seasons,” he said, referring to the fact that the public courts are also used by the local school district.

The work will be done by Vasco Sports Contractors of Massillon.

Mayor Margo Zuch said she was pleased that residents supported the two park levy renewals on the Nov. 7 ballot.

“We are very grateful for that. It is very important that we have that money to run our park,” she said

Article originally published in Morning Journal