ASHTABULA — Ashtabula County’s largest city is feeling the crunch of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ashtabula’s city leaders are scrambling to fill a nearly $1 million hole in their budget thanks to the economic shutdown.
The impact could last for years and four employees, including three firefighters, will be laid off, City Manager Jim Timonere said.
Furloughs have been enacted in other departments, such as police and motor maintenance.
During Monday night’s virtual City Council meeting, Timonere said furloughs mean full-time hourly employees will work 36 or 38 hours a week, but they are able to keep their health insurance. He commended employees for helping come up with ways to reduce the budget.
Finance Director Traci Welch said she is also grateful to employees.
Vice President Michael Speelman said he’s willing to donate his income from serving on City Council back to the city for workers.
City Council also unanimously passed a resolution declaring it necessary to renew a .3-mill Ashtabula City Senior Levy at the November election and requesting the county auditor to certify the total tax valuation of the city.
The idea of the levy began in July 2001 when the Senior Center asked the city to donate $30,000 to cover some operating expenses. The city couldn’t afford it at the time but it did agree to place a levy on the November 2001 ballot, with proceeds going to the center.
The levy allowed the center to expand its services and programs.
Council also unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing the city manager to enter into a $3,000 contract with Renew Partners LLC of Chardon for the sale of property at the corner of Park Avenue and West 44th Street.
The city has no current use for the property, Timonere said.
When the sale went out for bids, Renew was was the only bidder at $2,000. Timonere negotiated the sale for $3,000, according to the ordinance.
Renew Partners, a northeast Ohio developer, has plans to invest $12 million to redevelop the Carlisle’s building on Main Avenue into apartments, offices and retail space.
Renew, through its affiliate Carlisle-Allen LLC, also acquired the former Masonic Building and land behind the Carlisle and Masonic buildings. With these acquisitions, the project has now expanded to 85,000 square feet of building redevelopment and is expected to cost $15 million.
Renew is led by Chuck Borsukoff and Shawn Neece, who, along with JCI Contractors, redeveloped the historic Hotel Ashtabula into medical offices for Signature Health.
“[This purchase] is helpful to our project and will make it a little nicer,” Neece said. “By having this parcel as part of our parking lot, it will add more green space.”
In other business, Ashtabula City Health Commissioner Christine Hill presented the latest COVID-19 numbers and observations within the city of Ashtabula.
She reported Ashtabula has 36 positive cases, two hospitalizations; two deaths and five probable cases, as of Monday. The people who seem to be getting the sickest are people, 65 and older, she said.
“We are trying to reopen Ohio but doing it responsibly,” Hill said. “I can’t thank my staff enough for their dedication.”
Speelman asked when he can open his business, the Chalk Box on Main Avenue.
Hill said gyms are allowed to open May 26, but there are some limitations.
“I printed out all the rules for gyms,” she said. “We can talk about it and take a look at what you’ll be doing.”
Ward 4 Council person Octavia Harris asked about masks.
Hill said the masks are “a polite way to keep your droplets in.” She encouraged people to try on masks made out of different materials and find one that is comfortable.