Gambill told Council he is a lifelong resident of the city, having grown up in the east end.
“I’m sad to see that we are a community under siege,” Gambill said. “We’re having our houses stripped of their wire, copper plumbing and air conditioning units. This is taking place all over the city and all over the county. We’re seeing cars having their windows broken out in broad daylight to steal the contents in what should be Portsmouth’s best neighborhoods.”
“Pain clinics abound. Prostitutes ply their trade openly, and death and destruction are regularly on the front page of the paper,” Gambill said.
Gambill said instead of people being a part of the solution, there is a lot of finger-pointing and blaming going on.
“We try to sit around, and ask who can we blame, who can we point the finger at that caused all of this problem that put us here because of something that happened 30 years ago,” Gambill said. “I’m telling you — nobody wins the blame game. We’ve got to stop. We’ve got to stop now.”
Gambill said he received information from the Scioto County Prosecutor’s Office that three individuals are responsible for 20 percent of the total indictments in the county.
“In 2009, there was something like 1,009 indictments,” Gambill said. “When Lynn Grimshaw took over as prosecutor in 1976, he did 40 indictments that year. We had 1,000 last year. You’ve got two or three guys who are kicking up 20 percent of the activity. But for all their (law enforcement) efforts there is not enough resources to attack the problem.”
Gambill said the city needs to employ more resources and be more engaged in the fight against crime.
He also talked about property values in the city going down, and employed persons choosing to live outside the city, while houses are sold at distressed prices, and occupied by people who do not contribute to income taxes. Gambill said over half of the city employees live outside the city as well.
“They may earn an income, but I can assure you they are not filing tax returns,” Gambill said. “We’ve got to take back our neighborhoods one block at a time. We’ve got to improve ownership ratios in the city. We’ve got to improve housing conditions and move the criminals out of the neighborhood. We should not hear that persons are afraid to drive in certain neighborhoods in broad daylight. And we hear it every day.”
Sciotoville resident Jeff Dempsey took the time to thank Portsmouth Mayor Jane Murray, Sixth Ward Councilman Rich Noel and Portsmouth City Services Director Bill Beaumont for coming to Rose Street Park last week to look at the deplorable conditions that exist there.
Portsmouth City Health Commissioner Peggy Burton responded to a story in the Portsmouth Daily Times in which Third Ward Councilman Nick Basham said he was disappointed that she had not been showing up at the city’s budget hearings.
Burton apologized and explained that she had been out of town training in Cincinnati.
“I will always make myself available,” Burton said.
Later in the budget meeting Burton explained the percentage of the salaries for the operation of her department paid by the city and the percentage paid by grants. She also made several cuts in her budget to help Council attempt to bring down the current $1.5 million budget deficit.
At one point Burton explained that the City Health Department is really not a part of the city.
“This is something that City Council established to have a health department. So that should be between the health department and City Council, because there has been an Attorney General’s ruling on it, so that means we can set our own salaries,” Burton said.
Burton said the Ohio Revised Code says that the Board of Health sets the health department’s employee salaries.
“We’re not attacking you Peggy, but we’re trying to work through this,” Portsmouth City Auditor Trent Williams said. “We have people who are willing to give back, but not if others are going to take more.”
“I think giving $35,000 back is pretty good, don’t you?” Burton said.
“It’s relative. If others are giving $90,000, then, no,” Williams responded.
“Their budgets are three times more than mine,” Burton said.
“That’s what I said. It’s all relative. Thirty-five thousand, that may be great — that may be nothing,” Williams said.
“That’s 5 percent of my budget,” Burton said.
“The problem is that we are looking for 15 percent,” First Ward Councilman Kevin Johnson said.
Council scheduled another budget meeting for Thursday, and plans to call a special session Monday, April 19 to pass the budget.
Council is hoping to bring the deficit to under $1 million by the night of the special session.
During their legislative session, Council passed an ordinance authorizing the distribution of $13,163.59, accounting for one-third of the Hotel/Motel tax assigned to cultural affairs.
Council also gave second reading to an ordinance authorizing an increase in Water Department tap installation fees, and a resolution authorizing the Portsmouth Fire Department to donate a surplus 1979 pumper truck to the Rubyville Fire Department.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232 or email@example.com