Niles Council tense as mayor suggests ways to relieve fiscal emergency

Council members decided to continue the discussion of Niles Mayor Tom Scarnecchia's plan next week

Niles Mayor Tom Scarnecchia

NILES, Ohio (WYTV) – Niles City Council and Mayor Tom Scarnecchia hit another boiling point as two big topics of discussion — the wellness center’s future and an increased fee for drivers — were placed in front of them.

Scarnecchia presented additional ideas Wednesday night to get the city out of fiscal emergency. They would be added to the plan he came up with in December.

“I cannot in good conscious vote ‘yes’ to another plan that doesn’t have a plan addressing the future of the wellness center. I can’t,” said Ryan McNaughton, Council at Large.

Niles wants to lease the center because the city can no longer afford to operate it.

As the future of the wellness center hangs in the balance, council members asked for more open lines of communication between them and the park board.

“I know there is some discussion but I don’t know what the park board is doing,” said Steve Papalas, Council at Large.

The park board is looking for someone to take over the wellness center but so far, there haven’t been any bidders.

“Just every couple of weeks, give us a little update on what the park board is doing. There’s a lot of correspondence that we’re not aware of,” McNaughton said.

Scarnecchia also wanted to add two separate $5 license plate fees, which would generate an extra $180,000 a year for road resurfacing projects. But council pressed the mayor, asking where he got that information.

“We were told that,” Scarnecchia responded.

Papalas said there wouldn’t be a discussion on raising the license tax, and shut down any idea of the increase being a possibility.

“The ceiling could fall in before that happens.”

First Ward Councilman Frank Pezzano wanted to know where asking residents for more money is going to stop.

“We go from the tax to water rates, and now to license plates, and now we’re going to raise something again,” he said. “Going to the people for money has to end somewhere.”

Scarnecchia said a license plate fee wouldn’t penalize everyone, only drivers.

Ultimately, the measure regarding license plate fees failed.

“I don’t mean to be lecturing people, but this is ridiculous,” Council President Bob Marino said.

They agreed to table the rest of the mayor’s plan and discuss it at a special meeting on Monday at 5 p.m.