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Include Market In New Budget

At some point, COVID-19 will be history and we can all move on with our lives. Our local economies will move on, too. Within a few weeks, Steubenville City Council may weigh in on which direction the municipality’s downtown district takes.

City Councilman Bob Villamagna suggested about a year and a half ago that officials consider converting part of the old municipal building into a public market. He has something similar to Wheeling’s historic Centre Market in mind.

As was the case in Wheeling, establishing a market-house atmosphere at the old city building could attract other businesses, Villamagna hopes.

As recently as early this year, the idea seemed to be gaining traction among other Steubenville officials. It was hoped that with some investment by the city in the market building, state and/or federal funding could be obtained to pursue the project.

Then COVID-19 hit, crashing both the economy and municipal revenues. Now, there is some concern the city may have trouble paying its bills, much less scraping up money to undertake anything meaningful at the old city building.

Steubenville officials have begun discussing the municipal budget for next year — and the outlook is not promising. “This is the most challenging budget process that I have been involved with in my nine years on council,” remarked Councilman Willie Paul, who chairs the finance committee.

Especially if the epidemic persists, perhaps even picking up steam, Steubenville revenue will continue to be affected adversely. That could make it tough merely to maintain existing municipal services.

Still, there will be a future. Villamagna’s idea, if pursued, could make it brighter. If at all possible, Steubenville council members should build the city building/market project into the budget for the coming year. COVID-19 should not be permitted to prevent an initiative that could benefit the city for many years after the epidemic is history.

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