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Niles faced challenging year with finances, mold

120916...R NILES MOLD 1....Niles...12-09-16... Howard McCutcheon. an emploee with Service Master Restore by Lewis Construction of Howland, removes old plaster from a wall in a storage room in Niles City Hall Friday afternoon...by R. Michael Semple

Editor’s note: This is No. 9 of the top 10 stories of 2016 voted on by employees of the Tribune Chronicle.

NILES — City officials and council faced a very challenging year dealing with everything from financial problems to mold at the city municipal building.

Despite what they faced, officials took action to address the challenges ahead of them to do what they could for the betterment of the community.

“We’ve made a lot of progress this year. Even though we started the year not knowing all of the problems that we’d have to deal with, I think we handled it well,” said Safety Service Director Jim DePasquale.

“We inherited the (administration building) after 24 years of mismanagement and disrepair. We had to fix the building, and luckily it looks like we are coming in under budget,” DePasquale said.

He said the workers didn’t take a break on addressing any challenge.

”We’ve worked through it and all of the work will be done soon,” DePasquale said.

It hasn’t been easy with the cards the new administration was dealt, but at the year’s end, DePasquale said he could look back and sees a lot of progress.

Work at the city building included repairs to the roof, mold remediation, and interior and exterior masonry work.

The mold remediation will be done next week. Officials are probably going to choose a bid for the exterior work after the architect, Bruce Sekanick, makes a recommendation. The bids on the interior work should also be opened.

The new fiscal recovery plan has the OK of the financial supervisors and the fiscal commission.

“I think it is what we need to get on track and start moving forward,” DePasquale said.

The fiscal plan calls for an evaluation of all of the city’s buildings, so there will be a maintenance plan and something like this doesn’t blindside the city again.

DePasquale said there were 112 water breaks this year, more than double last year. He said the proper amount of attention wasn’t paid to water infrastructure over the years, so it is in need of a lot of work, not just a few projects, he said.

Raising the water rates this year will help make that happen.

“For a first year, which is also a learning year, it has been very, very difficult. However, we now have a better understanding of local government and what it takes to run this city. Of course, our finances are going to take a while before we get them where we want them, but we are exploring every possibility and everything we can do to make it happen soon. Our first concern is of the safety and wellness of the Niles people,” said Scarnecchia.

“We will be really looking for financial stability. We need to increase the general fund. We’ve got to be very prudent and follow the plan to the ‘T’ and get out of fiscal emergency — which could happen next year because a lot of things are in the fire,” Scarnecchia said.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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